Democrat Senator Barack Obama beat rival Senator Hillary Clinton by just seven votes in Guam’s nominating contest after record numbers of residents voted in the tiny US territory’s primary, officials said yesterday.
Results after more than 12 hours of manual counting showed Obama took 2,264 votes to 2,257 for Clinton. Turnout was 25 percent higher than the 4,000 party officials expected. In the last Democratic primary in 2004 only 1,500 people took part.
“Clearly, both of them are quite popular and we should celebrate that,” said Josh Tenorio, Obama’s campaign manager on the territory. “It’s a good day for Guam.”
Clinton thanked her supporters and pledged to continue to champion local issues on Guam.
“After seven years of the [US President George W.] Bush administration, Guamanians need someone who will stand up and fight for them,” Clinton said in a statement after the vote.
“As our campaign moves forward after this day, I will continue to champion the issues facing the people of Guam and when I’m president I will ensure that hard-working families of Guam have the resources and the opportunity to succeed,” she said.
With only four votes at the Democratic convention at stake, the contest on Guam, a Pacific island more than 20 hours by plane from Washington, will barely register in the protracted duel for the party’s presidential ticket.
Neither candidate made it to Guam — instead both called into radio stations to campaign — and many Americans have never even heard of the territory, but some islanders were thrilled to finally be in the spotlight.
“A lot of people were confused by the process,” said Robert Lizama, a local mayor. “It’s brought a lot of awareness and participation. I think that’s important. We can’t vote for president, but this is our part of the process.”
Residents cannot vote in the presidential election but Guam, which is less than a fifth of the size of the smallest US state of Rhode Island, sends eight delegates with half a vote each to the Democratic convention in August.
Also on the ballot was the race for chairman and vice chairman of Guam’s Democratic Party.
“I want change. He might change some things, like health insurance. It’s expensive,” said Ricky Castillo, 69, who voted for Obama.
Guam party officials said many people had registered as Democrats at the caucus sites around the island, prompting the tag “Democrats for a day.”
“There are many new Democrats today,” said Herbie Perez, the chairman of the Democratic nominating committee. “I am so surprised. I never thought it would be like this.”
The outcome rested on Dededo, the island’s most populated community and the final village to be counted, and where Clinton had strong support from the predominantly Filipo-American community.
She trailed Obama by 203 votes before counting began in Dededo where officials said several spoiled ballots were rejected.
Clinton had reminded voters about her multiple visits during stopovers on presidential trips with her husband to Asia and Obama emphasized his Pacific Ocean connections through his upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia.
It was not immediately clear whether the four pledged delegates from Guam’s caucuses would be split evenly between Obama and Clinton.
Guam like, most Democratic Party nominating contests does not use a winner take all formula, but a complicated formula of proportionally doling out the spoils, based on a variety of factors.