CINCINNATI - Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, considered a potential running mate in the presidential race, promoted Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's campaign in her Ohio hometown yesterday with the state's pivotal primary election less than two weeks away.
"I'm here to tell you Ohio has to do their part: critical election on March 4, opportunity to really bring in the decisive vote to make sure that Barack will be the nominee of the party," Ms. Sebelius told several dozen people at a union hall. She was joined by her father, former Ohio Gov. John Gilligan, who said he also backs Mr. Obama.
She endorsed Mr. Obama ahead of Kansas' Feb. 5 caucuses, which he handily won.
She already planned to be in Ohio yesterday because Mr. Gilligan, 86, was being honored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber as one of its "great living Cincinnatians."
Ms. Sebelius said she expects to return to Ohio to campaign the weekend before the primary.
She praised Mr. Obama for his appeal to many kinds of voters, including across party lines, among women, and particularly among young voters. But Ms. Sebelius sidestepped speculation she could emerge as his vice presidential candidate, saying that kind of talk is premature. "My focus is really on doing the job in Kansas and trying to do what I can around the edges to support the nomination. There is absolutely no discussion that I know about about next steps and there shouldn't be."
She was mentioned on lists of potential vice presidential running mates for nominee John Kerry in 2004. She was re-elected governor in 2006 with nearly 58 percent of the vote in a Republican-leaning state, and she added national attention in giving the Democratic response to President Bush's latest State of the Union address.
She and Mr. Gilligan, Ohio governor in 1971-75, are the only father-daughter governors in U.S. history.
Bringing in a female governor with Ms. Sebelius' record of political success and local connections helps Mr. Obama in Ohio, said Gene Beaupre, an Xavier University political scientist. He noted that Mr. Gilligan, who until recently was still serving on the Cincinnati school board, is well-recognized locally.
"All these things are important now," Mr. Beaupre said. "Candidates are building coalitions from small groups of people."
He said some of his students were more focused on other Obama surrogates, though - he was hearing excitement about the planned campus visit today of young actors Kal Penn and Nick Cannon.39.10661 -84.50455