A local look a the Democratic campaigns
BY VICTORIA STEPHENS
It’s not just candidates coming through town for a quick speech anymore; the presidential campaigns have come to Eugene and they’re setting up shop. Just across from Kinko’s on Willamette lies Barack Obama’s new headquarters. And Springfield is the home for Hillary Clinton’s newly opened local campaign office for Lane County, located across the street from Club 1444 (a “gentlemen’s club”), a 60-day loan shop and a panaderia on Main Street.
Clinton’s office is one of six offices statewide. The white painted square cinderblock building at 1441 Main boasts in its front window a series of red, white and blue yard signs and white poster board signs drawn with markers emblazed with slogans such as “Honk for Hillary.”
The building shares a parking lot with Goodfella Lounge and the EZ Boy Mattress factory. Along that section of Main Street are aging trailer parks, cheap motels and little used lots encircled by barbed wire-topped chain link fencing.
But inside, the building buzzes with activity, even on a weekend. There are about 10 people on telephones in front of laptops set on long folding tables. The workers are primarily women, and almost all are volunteers. Behind the front counter a sign reads, “Are you a Hillary Rockstar?”
There are three staff people, including Tess Fields, who is acting as the director of women’s outreach. Fields, from Portland, feels so strongly about the campaign that she has taken a leave of absence from her position with Planned Parenthood to travel the state organizing efforts to gather support among women.
With her background in women’s reproductive rights, Fields says she supports Hillary’s record on these issues in Congress, such as her support for making the morning after pill available as emergency over-the-counter medication and her work on the Medical Leave Act.
The workers in Clinton’s Springfield headquarters did not want to talk much and referred their comments to Julie Edwards, the Oregon communications director in Portland, who was in phone contact several times to oversee communications with EW.
Fields did say that “women are standing for Hillary at a critical time in our lives,” a position that she hopes will ensure a better future for her 2-year-old daughter. Both Fields and Edwards said that Clinton has a broad base of support, from men in the labor movement to many others both young and old.
Back in Eugene, the local “Obama for America” headquarters, one of 10 statewide, is located at 1280 Willamette. The large storefront window has an Obama “Hope” poster, yard signs and a sandwich board promotion for a bike canvass for Earth Day.
Inside, Obama backers can pick up flyers on campaign issues from a shelf near a sitting area. Around the office are butcher paper banners with colorful poster-paint statements like “Oregon for Obama.”
The Obama campaign doesn’t slow down for weekends either. The volunteer counter has several workers answering questions, selling merchandise and answering phones. To the side of the room are more volunteers working on computers at folding tables stacked with clipboards. A second, more secluded room is papered with district maps on the walls and people with laptops, coffee cups at hand, entering data until late in the evening.
The volunteers were wearing Obama T-shirts and buttons. Matt Keating, an LCC student who started the Lane Students for Barack Obama group (500 members strong), said he liked the grassroots nature of citizen involvement in Obama’s campaign.
“Finally in my lifetime I see a candidate that I can embrace. It’s nice to shed the cynicism and participate in more positive politics,” said Keating.
Keating said he is also impressed by communication strategies using new media tools to get people involved online, similar to Roosevelt’s fireside chats except mutually interactive.
Volunteer Mardel Chinburg, who “loves politics,” said Obama’s “message is refreshing, it’s smart, it’s hopeful for the future. It feels like we can actually make a change this time.”
Chinburg founded the Lane County Obama Mamas, with friends Nancy Hughes and Jean White. The Mamas, a volunteer group that does phone banking and other office and support activities, includes some men.
The Obama Mamas and Lane Students for Barack Obama are examples of many such citizen-initiated groups that have sprung up around the country.
Besides the weekly Saturday Market booth, which is “a rush” according to Keating, there are meetings Friday evenings at the UO’s EMU, and a women’s outreach is in the plans for the future.
Both campaigns welcome volunteers, are open seven days a week and have evening as well as office hours until the primary election May 20.
To volunteer for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, go to www.hillaryclinton.com/oregon or call 741-1761.To help with the Oregon for Obama campaign go to http://my.barackobama.com or call 345-1925 or go to their Willamette Street office.