Barack Obama was declared the Democratic nominee for president on Wednesday in Denver after the New Mexico delegation stepped aside to allow Obama’s former rival, Hillary Clinton, to ask delegates to name him the first black presidential candidate from a major party.
Clinton, who called for unity after a divisive party battle, appeared with the New York delegation and asked that the roll call be halted and that Obama be nominated.
“Let’s declare together in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president,” said Clinton, who received a standing ovation as she appeared with the delegation.
Delegates joined in a chorus of Obama’s motto, “Yes we can!” and joined hands in a sign of unity as they sang along to the soul song “Love Train,” symbolically ending a rivalry that dogged the party into the convention.
Obama was nominated by Michael Wilson, an Iraq war veteran and lifelong Republican from Florida. The first of three seconding speeches came from Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., a nod to the host state of the convention, the role of the West in a revived Democratic Party and to Hispanics seen as key to Obama’s success.
“Welcome to Colorado,” Salazar said, wearing his trademark white cowboy had and bolo tie. “Welcome to the West, where we’re building the new Democratic majority.”
Salazar paid tribute to his family’s Hispanic heritage, recognizing five generations of farmers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and ancestors who founded Santa Fe, N.M., four centuries ago, “before the Pilgrims and the Puritans, before Jamestown and Plymouth.”
“The rural America I know has become a forgotten America,” Salazar said. “We can’t afford more of the same. We can’t afford four more years of forgetting the middle class. We can’t afford four more years of George Bush policies with John McCain.”
Westerners abounded in Wednesday’s convention activities. Delores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, a fourth-generation New Mexican who now lives in California, nominated Hillary Clinton for president.
“She has stood with hardworking people all of her life and she knows how important it is to keep fighting and keep going,” Huerta said.
Jordan Apollo Pazell, of Copperton, Utah, the third-youngest delegate at the convention, read one of two seconding speeches for Clinton.
It was the New Mexico delegation that paved the way for Obama’s nomination, though. As each delegation announced its votes and the count built for an Obama victory, the New Mexico delegation yielded to Illinois to allow Obama’s home state to cast the deciding votes to put him over the top.
The Illinois delegation yielded to New York in deference to Clinton, to allow her to make a final call for unity among the party.