Optimistic Dems unveil fancy campaign digs
The size of their headquarters and turnout for their grand opening indicate optimism
Two hours into the grand opening of his Butte County campaign office last Saturday (July 12), Jeff Morris huddled around a backroom computer, away from the more than 260 fellow Democrats celebrating the grand opening of local party headquarters.
He was waiting to find out whether in fact he was the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat held for the past 22 years by Republican Wally Herger. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen had said final results in the tight June 3 Democratic primary would be posted on her Web site by July 12, but a check earlier in the day had turned up nothing.
Looking over Morris’ shoulder were Chico City Councilman Tom Nickell and California Democratic Party Adviser Bob Mulholland.
Suddenly, there it was: the final tally. Morris, a Trinity County supervisor, had edged out the 2006 nominee, Dr. A.J. Sekhon of Yuba City, by just 410 votes.
Nickell, wearing a “Jeff Morris for Congress” T-shirt, paraded around the office, a wide smile across his face. “It’s official, it’s official,” he boomed.
That was the high point of a grand-opening party that hardly needed one, such was the enthusiasm of the participants. Clearly, Butte County Democrats are expecting big things from November’s election.
That was evident in the size of their headquarters, 3,800 square feet. Located at the corner of Sixth and Main streets, it was formerly the home of a realty company.
Energy was high and the successful turn-out for the grand opening marked an important milestone for area Democrats. They had organized well. They had built momentum.
“This is the best office opening we’ve had in 35 years,” Mulholland said. “And this is the best office we’ve had because Bush is president and the economy is in the tanks, so rent is way down.”
The office was for sale by The Group, but the Dems secured a five-month lease that ends Nov. 7, three days after the election, because there were no prospective buyers.
In the parking lot, a proud, “card-carrying” Democratic family from the Colorado mountain town of Evergreen played bluegrass music. The O’Brien Family Band—or The O’Briens for Obama, as they’ve been known this election season—played several songs, including “Cuckoo’s Nest,” an affectionate tribute to the party and Will Rogers’ famous quotation: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”
The song was ironic, given that this event was the Democrats’ best organizational effort in decades.
The 600 Main St. locale will serve as the headquarters for the CD2 for Obama campaign, the Butte County for Jeff Morris campaign as well as the Democratic Action Club of Chico, headed by Randall Stone, and the Chico Democrats, headed by Mike Worley.
Green-and-white signs for Mickey Harrington’s race for the 3rd Assembly District seat adorned a few walls, but the man himself was pretty low key, mingling with supporters and missing the photo-op when county Supervisor Jane Dolan, Mulholland’s wife, cut the ceremonial grand-opening ribbon alongside Chico Mayor Andy Holcombe and Vice-Mayor Ann Schwab, both of whom are up for re-election in November.
Convention delegate Ryan McElhinney and Butte County Central Committee Chairman Justin Meyers showed their support for Charlie Brown’s 4th Congressional District campaign against conservative Republican Tom McClintock.
Ali Sarsour gallivanted around the premises with a large button over his left breast that was hard to miss: “Vote Ali Sarsour for City Council.” And though Bidwell Park and Playground Commissioner Jim Walker couldn’t make it because he was at work, those in attendance let it be known that he was also running for City Council.
The mood was fervently optimistic, as though the whirlwind of interest and support for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign would trickle down from the federal level to local elections, guaranteeing a Democratic landslide.