Thirty East Bay Democrats hold golden tickets to their party's national presidential convention in Denver after this weekend's tightest competition for delegate seats in modern California political history.

"I'm thrilled beyond belief. I am happier than I ever thought — I didn't realize how much I cared until push came to shove," said Berkeley author Ayelet Waldman, elected Sunday as one of four Sen. Barack Obama delegates from Rep. Barbara Lee's 9th Congressional district.

Many Californians — even Democrats — know little or nothing about the party's delegate selection process.

But the tight race between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, coupled with the convention's historic patina, fueled unprecedented participation.

A record number of eager party members competed — 2,500 — during Sunday caucuses for the coveted 241 congressional district-level delegate and 40 alternate seats and the chance to cast a historic vote for the first woman or first African-American presidential nominee.

California will send a total of 441 delegates and 62 alternates to the national convention in Denver on Aug. 25-28. The balance includes members of Congress, party leaders, at-large delegates and other elected officials.

The 15 East Bay Republican congressional district delegates for presumed GOP nominee and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were selected by the candidate in January. The Republicans will hold their national convention in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 1-4.

East Bay Democratic caucuses attracted record numbers of voters and drama after a roller coaster week.

Fearing stealth delegates harboring secret Clinton support, Obama had pruned hundreds of prospective delegates Wednesday but reinstated them Thursday.

The about-face was fortuitous for longtime party activists Richmond Councilman Harpreet Sandhu and Maria Alegria, who was recalled from the Pinole City Council in February.

They were dumped and restored but won handily as a slate in Rep. George Miller's 7th Congressional District, largely because of a large turnout from Sandhu's friends.

The pair drew criticism from some competitors, who said they had failed to demonstrate adequate Obama loyalty.

"I can understand that people who have walked precincts for Obama might feel overshadowed," Sandhu said. "But I have been involved in the party for many years. I am standing up for Obama because my commitment is to what he stands for."

On the Clinton side, Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan, 58, was elected as a delegate from Lee's district.

Quan, noting California's Asian-Americans overwhelmingly voted for Clinton over Obama, said she hopes to help mend the party's rifts.

"There are going to be disappointed people one way or the other," she said. "Healing and uniting the party is really key."