U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln announced Thursday that she was backing Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic presidential campaign, two days after Arkansas handed its former first lady a decisive victory in the state's presidential primary.
"Hillary and I have worked together on issues affecting children and families since we both went to Washington in 1993," the Arkansas senator said in a statement released by Clinton's campaign. "She understands that by strengthening our working families, we are strengthening our nation. She is well equipped to lead our country through the economic difficulties that lie ahead."
Lincoln was the only high-ranking elected Democratic leader in the state who had not yet endorsed Clinton, who served 12 years as the state's first lady. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, Reps. Mike Ross, Vic Snyder and Marion Berry and Gov. Mike Beebe have endorsed Clinton.
Lincoln's support strengthened Clinton's support among the state's 11 superdelegates, members of Congress and other party leaders who are not selected in primaries and caucuses - and who are also free to change their minds. Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Bill Gwatney, another superdelegate, said Thursday he will support Clinton at the party's convention in Denver because of her win in Arkansas' primary.
Lottie Shackleford, a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, is the only superdelegate from Arkansas not committed to any candidate.
Clinton praised Lincoln as a "longtime champion" for children and families.
"I look forward to working with leaders like Senator Lincoln to get our country back on track and deliver the change our country needs," Clinton said in a prepared statement.
Lincoln said before Tuesday's primary that she didn't want to distract Arkansas' voters as they chose between Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.
"I think it's important to reinforce to the people of Arkansas that they do have a role to play. They aren't insignificant," Lincoln said. "I don't have any problem getting behind our Democratic nominee, and I don't have any problem letting the people of Arkansas know that I'll be supporting the Democratic nominee."
Clinton, a New York senator and Illinois native, handily defeated Obama in Tuesday's presidential primary, helped by widespread affection among Democrats for her husband and Arkansas native Bill Clinton, the former governor and president.