Neighborhood campaign offices compete for Va. voters

By Kimberly Colander

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both realize the importance of winning the vote in Virginia. For the past 44 years the state has voted for the Republican candidate. In Hampton Roads, there were seven McCain-Palin offices and 12 Obama-Biden offices as of Oct. 5.

McCain’s running mate is Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and Obama’s running mate is U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Dawn Matheson, a volunteer at the Chesapeake McCain-Palin office, said that as a whole Virginia has more Democratic offices than Republican offices. “The Democratic campaign beats us 7 to 1 in offices throughout Virginia,” she said.

According to Matheson, the reason for the big difference is because the competition in the state is tight. But, as the election date gets closer, the Republican campaign is expected to open more offices. 

Jared Leopold, communication director for the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Coordinated Campaign, believes that the Democrats have established so many offices in this area because it is known that Hampton Roads is a key area to win in order to get Obama elected. He described Virginia as a battleground for the campaign.

Leopold said the Democratic tactic for winning Hampton Roads is to have offices located in the community neighborhoods so that neighbors can talk to each other. “We want to be convenient to the community,” Leopold said, “We don’t want people to travel far to get campaign information.”

A typical day in both of the offices is similar. Both parties serve as a local connection to a national campaign. The two offices answer phones and address questions from the public about the election. Neighbors can pick up bumper stickers, yard signs or campaign literature from either office.  

Democratic volunteers go door-to-door, making sure that people are registered and also give out information about the entire Democratic ticket. They inform the public about Obama’s campaign, as well as Mark Warner’s for the U.S. Senate and Bobby Scott’s for Congress. Republican volunteers conduct their own internal polls and also run phone banks.

Terry Williams, a volunteer for the Obama-Biden office in Suffolk, started her first day as a helper for the campaign on Saturday. She has been dealing with phone calls from the public and also walk-ins. Williams is passionate about this cause because she wants to “let the community know how important the process is.”

Matheson was able to meet McCain two weeks ago at a Naval Academy reunion in Indianapolis. “He was there signing things and answering questions,” Matheson said “and it was a pleasure to finally meet the man that I’ve been working for.”

Leopold started working for the Democratic campaign in June. He has been involved with politics for a while and is excited to be working with Obama during this “change movement.” He urges young people to get involved with this historical election.

The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.