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Saturday, February 2, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Edwards' No. 1 supporter turns to Obama

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA — The woman who chaired John Edwards' 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns in Washington state announced Friday she is now backing Sen. Barack Obama.

Jenny Durkan, a Seattle attorney, said she was disappointed that Edwards fared so poorly in other states and had to bow out of the race earlier this week. But she said she feels strongly that Obama is a better choice than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I truly believe the country needs a new direction and it needs it both on a political level and on a spiritual level," Durkan said. "We need someone who can appeal to our better angels ... and I think he's the person best equipped to do that."

Durkan said Obama has been more consistent than Clinton in opposing the Iraq war, a stance she said will be key in winning the general election. And, after nearly three decades of having a Bush or Clinton in the White House, Durkan said it's time for a change.

"We're not a country of dynasties," she said.

Durkan is a close political ally of Gov. Christine Gregoire, who plans to announce next week whom she is endorsing.

As the state's Feb. 9 precinct caucuses approach, the Obama and Clinton campaigns are both aggressively pursuing Edwards supporters and prominent Democratic leaders who remain uncommitted.

During a campaign swing through Washington on Friday, Sen. John Kerry — the party's presidential nominee in 2004 — met privately in Seattle with some of those people to try to persuade them to back Obama.

One person in the meeting was Yvonne Ward, an Auburn attorney who was a Kerry delegate to the 2004 national convention. But Ward, a strong Edwards supporter, said after the meeting that she remained undecided.

Ward said she and most of the other Edwards supporters she knows are "kind of at sea. We're all a little bit lost and trying to figure out what to do."

Meanwhile, the latest campaign-finance reports show that Obama continues to outpace all other candidates — Democrat or Republican — in raising money.

Obama raised more than $700,000 from Washington donors during the final quarter of 2007 and now has taken in more than $1.7 million here. Clinton raised about $540,000 during that period, bringing her Washington state total to nearly $993,000.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is tops among the Republicans, raising more than $700,000 here through the end of the year.

Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or rthomas@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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