Local volunteers put passion into federal campaigns

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 7, 2012

 Catherine Smith, of Macomb Township, said she and her husband had made more than 10,000 calls from the Michigan Republican Party Victory Center in Utica in support of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Catherine Smith, of Macomb Township, said she and her husband had made more than 10,000 calls from the Michigan Republican Party Victory Center in Utica in support of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Photo by Brad D. Bates

UTICA — In the home of the Regan Democrat, supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, were not hard to find leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

And while the ideologies in places like the Michigan Republican Party’s Macomb County Victory Center in Utica and the Macomb County Obama For America office in Warren differed, the reasons volunteers entered the fray were similar.

“I’m a huge supporter of President Obama and just wanted to do my part to get him re-elected,” Marie Talarico, of Troy, said regarding why she made her way to the office in Warren to make phone calls supporting the president.

“You know what brought me out here? I want Romney in; that’s what brought me out here,” Catherine Smith, of Macomb Township, said when asked what motivated her to ring phones from the Utica Victory Center.

“I made 10,000 calls already, and so has my husband. We’re here every day, and we love it.”

But it’s not just love of a candidate that brings volunteers to invest their time and efforts into a campaign.

“I’m volunteering 40 hours per week, so I’m in here every day,” Linda Burns-Torp, of Harrison Township, said Oct. 30

“I missed Saturday because I was at two political events. But (volunteering is) that important, and I know it’s a trite phrase, but I believe this is the most important election we have ever faced.

“Because we will either turn into a European socialist-light country, or we will return to individual free enterprise as this country was founded.”

“These people believe very strongly in Mitt Romney,” Torp-Burns added of what she’s seen while training fellow volunteers.

“They understand that grassroots efforts and what is called a ground game and turnout election is what is imperative, and they are here because they want Gov. Romney to win.”

“I have an ulterior motive; I graduated as a political science major from Wayne State,” said Jacob Frink, of Harrison Township, of why he joined the Obama campaign. 

“But I had plans to join the Obama campaign because I am a liberal. I support the Democrats and Democrat cause. I don’t have a lot of chances for local politics because I live in a very conservative area, so the candidates I support don’t take very many volunteers, so I came to the Obama campaign.”

“I say, ‘I’m saving the country for you,’” Smith said of what she tells her grandchildren about why she volunteers. “I’m saving all this money that’s being wasted, but I don’t know if they understand. But hopefully, as they get a couple years older, they’ll pick up on something.”

Each group of volunteers has heard from residents all over Macomb County and learned from them and each other.

“We have three young boys that come in that are my grandson’s age,” Smith said. “Do you know, I learned from watching these three young boys and listening to them on the phone.

“And when they come in, they want to sit by me because they think they can learn from me, but I’m learning from them.”

“I’ve made many, many phone calls on this campaign, and the people I talk to are so interesting,” Talarico said.  “And they tell me how they’re sick or out of a job, but they are very resilient, and I can hear it in their voices, and I admire everyone a lot for it.”

And while they may have differing views, that resiliency has shaped both sides’ views of the future, even if their preferred candidate does not win.

“It will be disappointing, but at the same time, you just have to pick up and move on, work together and try to make the country better than it was the day before,” Talarico said.

“If (Romney) should not win, which I do not believe is going to happen, it will strengthen my resolve to be a watch dog to what is happening in government,” Torp-Burns said. “It will strengthen my resolve to keep on top of that.”