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Jun 2, 2016 11:29 AM

First on NH1 News: Martha Fuller Clark becomes first NH super delegate to back Sanders

NH1 News Political Director

PORTSMOUTH – Martha Fuller Clark told NH1 News on Thursday morning that “I am announcing today that I will be voting for Bernie Sanders as my role as a super delegate at the convention in July.”

Until now the vice-chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and longtime state senator from Portsmouth had stayed neutral in the race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Fuller Clark becomes the first super delegate in New Hampshire to support Sanders. Six of the state’s eight super delegates have long backed Clinton, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster. But NHDP chairman Ray Buckley and Fuller Clark had stayed neutral.

Buckley, who's a DNC vice chair, will remain neutral.

“The reason I’m doing it now is because the DNC has informed me that I cannot stay neutral until the convention,” Fuller Clark explained to NH1 News.

Asked why she decided to back Sanders, she said "the reason for that first and foremost is that we saw that 60% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary went for Bernie, 70% of the voters in my district went for Bernie. And I feel obligated to support that vote at the convention."

But she added that she hopes her announcement will bring unity to the party between Sanders and Clinton supporters.

Read Fuller Clark's statement

“I believe that it’s important that Bernie’s very progressive agenda be included in the platform regardless of who wins the nomination and we need to have spokesperson from New Hampshire representing those voters as well who are committed to that agenda. And I hope that I’ll be able as a result of agreeing to vote for Bernie, certainly on the first ballot, at the convention, to be able to play a significant role in two ways,” the progressive state senator continued.

Clark said one of those ways is to push for key Sanders agenda items, like free college tuition at public schools, or a livable wage, or getting big bucks out of politics, into the Democratic Party’s platform that will be hammered out at the convention.

Clark said that the secondly she hopes “that I will be able to bring all of the supporters, both for Bernie and Hillary, regardless of who wins the nomination, to come together. Because it so important that we unify as Democrats and currently there is no one in New Hampshire who can speak up on behalf of the Bernie supporters and make sure that they understand how important it is that we do not, by default, end up with Donald Trump as our president, which would be from my point of view and many people’s point of view truly a disaster for this country.”

Clinton is the all but certain nominee, and is expected to reach the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination during next Tuesday’s primaries, the last contests of the primary season. Clinton will go over the top thanks in part to the backing of the vast majority of super delegates (senior Democratic elected officials and top party officials), the vast majority of whom are backing Clinton. Super delegates make up nearly 20% of all delegates at the Democratic convention.

New Hampshire’s Democratic delegation at past conventions had traditionally voted unanimously for the nominee.

Asked by NH1 News if that will happen again on the first ballot at July’s convention in Philadelphia, Fuller Clark said “I think it’s not clear yet. I think we have to get through the entire primary (calendar) first.”

But she added that “ultimately I am convinced that our delegation will vote unanimously for the nominee.”

Kurt Ehrenberg, the former political director of Sanders' New Hampshire campaign, applauded the move by Fuller Clark.

Ehrenberg, who's also a pledged delegate for Sanders, told NH1 News that the news "may help move other super delegates" in the same direction.

Shurtleff backs Clinton

Fuller Clark’s announcement comes two days after the top Democratic in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Tuesday endorsed Clinton.

NH1 News was first to report early Tuesday morning that state House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff would endorse Clinton, urge Granite State Democrats to unite behind her, and denounce presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Until now, the six-term state representative from Penacook had stayed neutral during the Democratic primary season.

Speaking one-on-one with NH1 News following a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, Shurtleff said “I stayed neutral because I thought we had two outstanding candidates.”

“I was very pleased with who we had for choices and I just stayed out of it,” he added.

But Shurtleff went on to say that “now that we're getting towards the convention it's time for Democrats to come together and be united and that’s why I came out in support for Secretary Clinton.”

NHGOP applauds Fuller Clark

In an apparent political move, New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn praised Fuller Clark's decision.

“Its not often that we agree with a tax and spend liberal like Martha Fuller Clark, but we applaud her for respecting the will of New Hampshire voters who overwhelming supported Bernie Sanders in the First-in-the-Nation Primary," Horn said in a statement.

Read Fuller Clark's full statement:

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