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Oakland Democrats focus on local elections

on September 22, 2008


Sept. 22 — As the California Democratic Party works on playing a larger role in the battleground states for the presidential election, Bay Area Democrats opened Sunday a new Oakland campaign office that will focus on local races.

“We want the Obama supporters to get involved for the different propositions that we support, and also are trying to make sure they get passed,” said Matt Hummel, a field director in charge of the new office in downtown Oakland, on 19th and Broadway.

In an intensely contested presidential election year, Bay Area Democrats don’t want local issues to be ignored, Hummel said, adding that Democrats plan to recruit hundreds of volunteers to campaign and raise funds for the local races.

He said volunteers who show up at the new campaign office and want to work on the presidential election will be referred to other campaign offices, which are concentrating on persuading voters in swing states to support Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.   

In the Bay Area, there are six similar offices called United Democratic Campaign, all run by local Democratic Party organizations. The Obama campaign also has its own headquarters in Berkeley, San Francisco and San Jose.

The new office, said Matt Hummel, will recruit hundreds of volunteers for precinct walking, leafleting or phone banking within the Bay Area.

Among the local issues of concern for Democrats is Proposition 2, a Democratic -supported measure that would define new “Standards for Confining Farm Animals.” The party is campaigning against the same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. It also opposes the “Abortion Waiting Period and Parental Notification Initiative,” known as Proposition 4.

The new office will also coordinate volunteers for voter registration and help campaign for local Democratic candidates.  Saturday, one could see signs everywhere for Rebecca Kaplan, a candidate for Oakland City Council.

“We focus on local races and build the party for future elections,” said Andre Jones, Kaplan’s campaign chairman. Referring to the Republicans, Jones said, “Don’t let them catch you.” 

The opening ceremony was highlighted by the presence of prominent Bay Area Democratic candidates like Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Loni Hancock, who is running for state Senate;  and Sandré Swanson and Mary Hayashi, both running for state Assembly.

“We are going to be working here day and night,” Hancock said. 

While California is expected to vote for Obama in the November 4 presidential race, local Democratic Party officials plan on playing a larger role in the battleground states.

“For the people who are interested in the presidential race, we are encouraging them either to go to Nevada,  or we encourage them to call people on their cell phones,” said Owen Jackman, a Democratic Party regional director.   “Tell your friends, tell your family: if you know people in swing states,  go to the swing states.”

When Barbara Lee stepped on stage, she emphasized the role Californians will play in the Presidential race.

”We’re going to be taking buses to Nevada doing what we do best: knocking on doors, phone banking and making sure that Obama wins,” she said.  “We have an army of people here in this county to make sure that Senator Obama becomes President.”

Party officials were applauded by the crowd of about a hundred voters, mostly volunteers, who showed up.   

“Both are really important,” said Albany resident Gabriel Baty, 37, referring to the presidential race and the local issues.   

If having campaign offices playing different roles in the same area might seem confusing, Barbara Lee declared otherwise.  “We are a united democratic operation here, we are a united democratic people,” she said. “And we are a united Democratic campaign, with a ticket that is a wonderful ticket.”||||||||||||||

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