Topeka — Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has received his first endorsement from a Kansas party leader.
Larry Tenopir, a Topeka attorney, is supporting the former Vermont governor. Tenopir has been a Democratic advocate for three decades and is one of Kansas' two representatives on the Democratic National Committee.
Tenopir also is a "superdelegate," someone who is automatically chosen to attend the party's national nominating convention next year in Boston. Kansas has seven superdelegates, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, and 41 delegates overall.
Dean spokesman Garrett Graff said such an endorsement was important because it gave a campaign visibility with local activists when a candidate does not have the resources to form a state organization.
"Endorsements like Larry's are really vital in a campaign at this point," Graff said Monday in a telephone interview.
Besides Sebelius and Tenopir, the other Kansas superdelegates are 3rd District Congressman Dennis Moore; Kansas party chairman Larry Gates; party vice chairwoman Teresa Krusor; Constance Wray, the state's other Democratic National Committee member, and Chris Gallaway, of Lawrence, national president of the Young Democrats.
Sebelius plans to wait to make an endorsement, spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.
"That's not something she's really worried about," Corcoran said. "She's going to see how things play out."
Ten Democrats are campaigning for the party's nomination. The latest, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former supreme allied commander in Europe, entered the race last week.
Meanwhile, state Republican Party leaders are firmly behind President Bush's re-election, as expected.
The Kansas GOP has three "automatic" delegates to the party's nominating convention in New York, state Chairman Dennis Jones and Republican National Committee members Steve Cloud and June Cooper. The state has 39 total delegates.