STERLING HEIGHTS — As Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama took his message to Europe and the Middle East, supporters close to home gathered for the official opening of Macomb County’s first Campaign for Change Office July 26.
Local officials and campaign organizers offered brief pep talks for the dozens of local volunteers who clustered within the new office, nestled in a nondescript strip shopping center on Van Dyke, between 14 Mile and 15 Mile, in Sterling Heights.
Joe Dolan, 12th Congressional District Democratic party chairman, welcomed visitors to “the war room, otherwise known as the boiler room,” jokingly referring to the malfunctioning air conditioning.
Likening Obama to a “cool breeze” carrying refreshing new views, state Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, encouraged visitors to tout Obama to friends and neighbors.
Brent Colburn, Michigan spokesman for Obama’s campaign, said the office will serve as a central location for volunteers and supporters to pick up materials and become “empowered” to spread Obama’s message. About eight to 10 field organizers supporting hundreds of volunteers will be based there, he added.
“We believe it needs to be neighbors talking to neighbors,” he said. “Michigan is obviously very important for Sen. Obama to win the White House, and Macomb is very important to win Michigan. It’s always a competitive county traditionally, and we think it’s a place we can do really well. We’re going to put a lot of resources into it and definitely pay a lot of attention it.”
According to Colburn, the campaign is establishing 40 offices across the state, 20 of which officially opened July 26. Several of them are located in southeastern Michigan, and there will be at least two additional offices launched in Macomb County in the near future, he said.
The Sterling Heights office sports colorful window paint proclaiming slogans like “Change we can believe in!” and “Yes, Macomb can!” while indoors, hand-made signs promote various aspects of Obama’s campaign platform.
The stifling heat during the grand opening didn’t seem to affect supporters’ enthusiasm as they prepared to launch their efforts.
Volunteer Jerry Capaldi marveled at the varied demographics among the event’s attendees.
“I just think it shows the overall appeal the senator has to a wide range of Americans,” he said. “Macomb County is a pivotal campaign. It’s important to try to get the word out in Macomb County the best we can.”
A lifelong Eastpointe resident, Capaldi said he previously considered himself an independent and has voted Republican in the past, but feels Obama is the right choice this fall.
Capaldi said he believes this election is the best in recent history in terms of the quality of candidates. McCain “is a great man in his own right, and an American hero,” but Obama has the youth and energy needed for the job, he said, noting that he likes Obama’s stances on education and infrastructure investment.
Fraser resident Jane Lamb came out with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Madeleine Lamb, a self-proclaimed “Democrat in training” from Chelsea.
Wearing an Obama T-shirt and a “Grandparents for Obama ’08” button, Jane Lamb said she feels the country is “in very dire straits” and needs a change. She said she appreciates Obama’s “statesman qualities” and “presence.”
“I just feel that if we have a hope for the future, Barack Obama is it,” she said. “It’s so nice to have someone that’s articulate. This is a man of ideas and ideals.”
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain opened his Great Lakes Regional Headquarters and state office in Farmington Hills in mid-July. Sarah Lenti, communications director for Victory ’08, said McCain’s Macomb County Victory Office — located on Utica Road, south of 15 Mile, in Fraser — has been operating since early summer.
Macomb is crucial because “it’s the home of the Reagan Democrats. … It’s kind of like how Macomb goes, so goes Michigan,” she said.
There are no plans to establish additional offices within the county, but at least six additional Michigan branches will join the state’s existing seven by the Republican National Convention in September, she said.
Lenti said the economy definitely seems to be the main issue among Macomb County residents and Michigan voters overall. With jobs leaving and companies struggling, “families and individuals and single people — they’re hurting,” she said.
Volunteers throughout Michigan are busily promoting McCain’s message and communicating with citizens to determine what issues they consider important, she said.
“You expect your volunteer efforts to be great after Labor Day,” she said, “but what’s exciting is that we have such a good core group early.”
McCain’s Macomb County Victory office is located at 34620 Utica Road in Fraser. For more information, call (248) 579-0350.
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