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Napolitano Cites Need For 'Fresh Voices' in Obama Pick

By Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, one of the most prominent female elected officials in the country, announced this morning her endorsement of Barack Obama's presidential candidacy.

"I think we need fresh voices and fresh messages of unity and coming together," Napolitano told The Post in a telephone interview. "I think he's a new young voice who has new appeal, particularly for those of us in the West."

Napolitano praised Hillary Rodham Clinton as a strong candidate, but said, "This is not about Senator Clinton. This is about what is the unique freshness. He does bring the unique ability to excite, to bring young people into the process...and to attract independent voters.

The Napolitano endorsement could help Obama in Arizona's Feb. 5 primary, but its larger significance is to signal that Clinton does not have a lock on support from top female Democratic elected officials.

Napolitano said her endorsement came after lengthy deliberation and several meetings with Obama, the first of which took place last February. "He is a powerful persuader," she said. "He really is. As good as he is at motivating a large hall, he's as good or better one on one."

Clinton spoke with Napolitano several times during the course of the campaign, but the two never met face-to-face, the Arizona governor said.

Napolitano said westerners see Washington as a city "where good ideas go to die," and argued that Obama has a special capacity to break the gridlock. She also said she believed Obama would be a strong general election candidate in western states that could prove decisive in a close race.

The Arizona governor, who is a past chairman of the National Governors Association, was easily reelected to a second term in 2006.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 11, 2008; 11:32 AM ET
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