Obama, Paul fire up local supporters
Lily Zhao can’t vote yet, but she is ready to start campaigning.
The 16-year-old who runs track and plays field hockey for Chico High School was on a run Monday (Jan. 28) when she encountered supporters of Sen. Barack Obama waving “Stand Up for Change” signs on the corner of Vallombrosa and Mangrove avenues.
By Tuesday night, she had convinced her mother, Talia Hinesley, to take her to Obama’s Chico headquarters, which is tucked away in an office complex on Cohasset Road north of East Avenue.
There, more than 20 people filled the office, busily making phone calls to potential voters and creating signs for the “Chico Walk for Barack” they will have Saturday (Feb. 2). Now that she’s officially Obama’s Chico High School representative, Zhao is eager to get involved.
“When I call people, you’re convincing other people to vote,” she said. “You get to voice your opinion even though you can’t vote.”
If grassroots support indicates who Chico will vote for, Obama and Rep. Ron Paul will be the biggest beneficiaries.
Sen. Hillary Clinton has the support of prominent Democrats like county organizer Mike Hawkins, who hosted a get-together to watch President Bush’s last State of the Union Address on Monday, and former Gov. Mitt Romney has Rep. Wally Herger’s backing. But there isn’t an identifiable grassroots campaign for either of those candidates in the Chico area.
Meanwhile, Obama and Paul supporters have plans for the weekend to make a big push campaigning before Feb. 5—a.k.a. Super Duper Tuesday—when California joins more than 20 other states in holding its primary.
Paul supporters, who were dedicated enough to stand in the 35-degree weather Tuesday, handed out flyers and sold Ron Paul rEVOLution T-shirts at the Free Speech Area on Chico State’s campus.
Both groups will be making phone calls to potential voters and going door-to-door this weekend to spread their message. The “Barack Walk” is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will start at One-Mile, parade through downtown to Broadway then loop back to One-Mile.
Although the two groups support dramatically different candidates, both see themselves as part of a popular movement in support of a candidate who can not only bring change to Washington, but also fix the mistakes of the Bush administration.
“Ron Paul is a man of integrity, and I don’t agree with everything he espouses,” Peter Ratner said Tuesday while passing out flyers at Chico State. “But he is the only one telling the truth about the country’s financial situation—you can’t keep printing money.”
Kimberly Durso, who organized Chico’s Obama movement, became a supporter after listening to him talk. “I was so moved by his transformative speech,” she said. “He is the only candidate to bring about change collectively for all Americans.”
As for Lily Zhao, she already has the makings of an activist: “I just don’t want to see Hillary get elected, and I’ll do whatever it takes for that not to happen.”