New Obama HQ targets swing states

By Kelly Rix

With the presidential election on Nov. 4 less than two months away, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama and his campaign are urging their Chicagoland supporters to help win over adjacent swing-state neighbors.

While Obama is projected to win his home state of Illinois on Election Day, many of his supporters are being commissioned to help out in other ways.

Through its new Illinois Statewide Headquarters in the West Loop, which held its grand opening on Sept. 20, the Obama camp hopes to train an army of volunteers to go out to neighboring states to canvass door-to-door and try to influence undecided voters to vote for the Illinois junior senator on Election Day.

Each weekend until Election Day, the campaign will be organizing road trips for Obama volunteers to each of the neighboring battleground states-Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri- according to the Obama/Biden website.

The campaign is also asking Chicago supporters who can’t travel out of state to come and work the phones down at the new statewide headquarters and enlist other volunteers who might be interested in traveling to other states.

Chicago resident Dennis Frymire, 29, has never been involved in a political campaign before but responded to the Obama campaign’s call for volunteers.

“I’m really behind Obama, and I’m afraid if he loses this campaign people will start to give up,” Frymire said.

Because of his work schedule, Frymire said he is unable to go on any trips. So, instead, he has committed to working at the Illinois headquarters for four hours every Sunday until the election, where he will call registered Democrats and ask if they will travel to Michigan to canvass for Obama.

Retired health planner Les Galley, 61, does have the extra time to work for Obama, he said. He has been volunteering at the new headquarters nearly every day and is willing to go to Michigan to go door-to-door to campaign.

Galley said he attended a “Camp Obama” training on Sept. 20 and 21 in Chicago, which trained volunteers who were willing to go to a battleground state for a five-week period where they will work with campaign organizers in those states. The training focused on leadership and community organizing, which are skills that can also be useful after the election is over, Galley said, to make changes in volunteers’ own communities.

“What they are trying to do [at Camp Obama] is set up a structure where people who have been involved with the campaign can keep being involved [after the election] because it’s going to take a lot of people working together to turn this country around,” Galley said.

Columbia interactive arts and media faculty member Mirella Shannon, 60, is an avid Obama supporter who hasn’t been able to give up any time to volunteer for the campaign himself but still tries to contribute in other ways, she said.

“I think he would rather have my money than my time,” Shannon said.

Shannon started supporting Obama during the primary season after her daughter, a student at Cornell University in New York, started volunteering for his campaign. Her daughter’s enthusiasm caught her by surprise, she said.

“It was the first time, I swear to God, that [my daughter] even knew who was running, which made me take a harder look at him,” Shannon said.

As of press time, representatives of Obama’s campaign did not return The Chronicle’s requests for comment.

The Illinois Campaign Headquarters, 566 W. Lake St., is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

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