SUSAN GALLAGHER, Associated Press Writer and TIM LEEDS, Havre Daily News HELENA
State legislators, city councilmen and a prosecutor are among 37 past and present Montana public officials who announced their support Thursday for Democrat Barack Obama's presidential bid. The Obama campaign held a Capitol news conference with about a dozen of the supporters, among them Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder, a state legislator and a councilman for the Chippewa- Cree Tribe. "He (Obama) is going to bring a breath of fresh air in politics to the United States like (Gov.) Brian Schweitzer brought a breath of fresh air to Montana. It will be a differnet kind of politics," Windy Boy said. Matt Chandler of the Obama campaign staff said the 37 supporters reflect diversity in Montana's enthusiasm for Obama, who currently represents Illinois in the U.S. Senate. The Obama campaign announced the support a day after the 27-member Montana steering committee for his rival was unveiled. The group backing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination includes American Indian lawmakers Carol Juneau and Shannon Augare, plus Montana Senate President Pro Tem Dan Harrington of Butte. In a telephone interview Thursday, Windy Boy said he was impressed by both Obama’s style and his plans for change. “As a community organizer, he knows how to get things done,” Windy Boy said. He added that Obama is sincere in the message he is delivering, something Windy Boy said he could tell the first time he spoke to Obama face-to-face. “I could tell he was real, he was genuine and he spoke from the heart, and, to me, that says a lot,” Windy Boy said. While Windy Boy said he believes Obama is the best candidate for the United States, he especially thinks he will help the situation of Native Americans. “He has a more in-depth and detailed plan for Indian Country,” Windy Boy said, adding that Obama said he will have a Native American on his staff to deal with tribal issues and that he said he will meet with tribal leaders once each year. Among the Obama supporters, legislator Mary Caferro of Helena does advocacy work for low-income people, is a single mother of four and used to Be a welfare recipient. "Sen. Obama has given everybody a reason to vote," said Caferro, who noted it is often said that low-income people do not cast ballots. Give them a reason to vote and they will do so, Caferro said. She described Obama's message as one of hope and inclusion. He has the support of three of Montana's eight Democratic superdelegates who will vote at the party's nominating convention this summer in Denver. So far, Clinton has not received a commitment from a Montana superdelegate. Thursday's show of support for Obama followed the opening of his campaign offices in Helena and Missoula, and narrowly preceded the scheduled opening of offices in Billings, Bozeman and Great Falls. The Clinton campaign has said announcements about Montana offices and staff are pending. Obama supporters whose names were announced Thursday include former U. S. Sen. John Melcher; former Montana Supreme Court Just ices Terry Trieweiler and Jim Regnier; Supreme Court Clerk Ed Smith; Montana Public Service Commissioners Ken Toole, Greg Jergeson and Bob Raney; and James Steele Jr., chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. Besides Windy Boy and Caferro, current and former legislators on the list are Paul Clark of Trout Creek; Steve Doherty, Don Ryan and Eve Franklin of Great Falls; Bob Ebinger of Livingston; Michelle Reinhart, Ron Erickson, Greg Lind, Dave McAlpin and Dave Wanzenreid of Missoula; Dave Gallik and Galen Hollenbaugh of Helena; Larry Jent and Mike Phillips of Bozeman; Jim Keane of Butte; Jesse Laslovich of Anaconda; Ray Peck of Havre; Frank Smith of Poplar; Kendall Van Dyk of Billings; and Bill Whitehead of Wolf Point. Current and former local-government representatives on the list are Missoula Mayor John Engen; Missoula City Council members Dave Strohmaier, Jason Weiner and Pam Walzer; Lewis and Clark County Commissioners Andy Hunthausen and Ed Tinsley; and Ryan Rusche, the Roosevelt County attorney. Melcher and Tinsley are superdelegates.