Obama passes on Northern Nevada presidential forum | NevadaAppeal.com

Obama passes on Northern Nevada presidential forum

Associated Press Writer
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallU.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, smiles as he addresses local Democrats at U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising steak fry dinner in Indianola, Iowa, in this Sept. 17, 2006, file photo. The senator said today that he won't attend the Feb. 21 forum in Carson City

LAS VEGAS ” Sen. Barack Obama won’t join Democratic presidential candidates at a Feb. 21 forum in Carson City later this month, although he plans to be in Southern Nevada just before the event, his campaign said today.

The Illinois senator will be campaigning in Iowa, and could not work in the Nevada forum, the first of five leading up to the state’s Jan. 19 caucus, into his schedule, campaign spokesman Dad Pfeiffer said.

“It was a difficult decision. He very much wants to spend time getting to know the people of Nevada, talking about how we move the country forward, but there are only so many days in the calendar,” Pfeiffer said. “He has a vigorous Senate schedule, it makes it very difficult to do all things he wants to do.”

Pfeiffer said Obama will campaign in the Las Vegas area Feb. 18, but did not release details on the senator’s schedule. Obama is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy Saturday in Springfield, Ill.

The Senate is not in session the week of the Carson City forum, which is sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Nevada Democratic Party.

“We’re disappointed that Sen. Obama chose not to attend the AFSCME forum, it will be a great opportunity for candidates to begin a dialogue with Nevada voters,” said party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer.

Nevada Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have been working to lure top-tier candidates to the state, which for the first time will host the second-in-the-nation caucus in 2008. The early slot has been billed as a chance for Hispanic and union voters to have a greater say in picking the party’s nominee, although it’s not clear whether candidates will give the state the attention typically enjoyed by Iowa and New Hampshire, longtime key contests.

rmer Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel also have accepted invitations to the event.

Obama’s top rivals for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, agreed to attend to the forum earlier this week, after first complaining to national party officials that the early timing and number of such events in key states threatened to cut into organizing and fundraising activities.

Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and fo