During a Medford appearance Wednesday, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign and a high-ranking Democrat said he believes his party's presidential pick will be sewn up shortly after the voters have spoken in the 10 remaining primaries.
"I think it will be over in June," said Terry McAuliffe, former chairman for the Democratic National Committee.
McAuliffe, who made stops in Oregon for the opening of five Clinton campaign offices, spoke before about 50 supporters at the new Medford headquarters at 111 East Main St.
He said Clinton likely will visit Southern Oregon after the primaries are wrapped up on the East Coast because of the importance of this state's 52 delegates. The Oregon primary is May 20.
"Oregon is critical for Hillary Clinton," he said.
Sen. Barack Obama is slightly ahead in delegates so far, and Clinton is hoping for wins in the remaining states. Many Democrats are concerned the race will continue into the Democratic National Convention at the end of August in Denver.
Despite some political pundits who say Clinton should drop out, McAuliffe said of the New York senator, "She is going to Denver as the nominee for the Democratic Party."
He said the election is in the hands of many superdelegates who will make up their minds after they see the results of the primaries.
Far from hurting the party, the race between Obama and Clinton has energized Democrats, he said.
"History is being made," he said. "We have two great candidates — the first black man and the first woman."
He predicted Clinton would win in Pennsylvania, then head to Oregon. Obama leads Clinton in recent polls here.
Sheila Gam, with the Southern Oregon Gay and Lesbian Democratic Caucus, is a Clinton supporter but said she wanted greater assurance that Clinton will stand up for gays and lesbians. The 74-year-old Talent resident criticized former President Bill Clinton for not showing enough support with his "don't ask, don't tell" military policy.
Gam said she wanted McAuliffe to tell her what Sen. Clinton would do for gays and lesbians.
"I wanted to get a clear statement on the gay issue," she said.
McAuliffe responded that the Clintons have been supported by many gay and lesbian groups over the years. He said it is difficult to offer a solution to these complex issues that will please everyone.
Judi Boyd responded that it takes time to bring about change, adding that it was only in 1920 that women received the right to vote.
"My grandmother couldn't vote," said the 65-year-old Eagle Point resident. "Now we have a woman running for president."
Nick Shapiro, spokesman for Obama in Oregon, said the Obama campaign has opened nine offices in the state and has just begun airing radio and television ads.
He said he expects to see Obama make a return trip to the state and possibly to Southern Oregon again.
"This election is a choice between the future and the past," he said. "The people are ready for a change. They are ready to end the divisive politics of the past."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.