Sunday, March 2, 2008

Knocking on a million doors in Ohio

By John Bachtell

CINCINNATI -- Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty fired up the crowd of hundreds of volunteers here ready to go door-knocking in southern Ohio for Senator Barack Obama. Fenty said the campaign will "knock on a million doors" in Ohio.

"It's 43 hours until the polls open," Fenty said. "We've been waiting a long time for this moment. Maybe some have never seen this kind of thing in their lifetime. And it's riding on the good people of Ohio."

Fenty said no matter what your race, religion or region of the country is "to solve the toughest problems people have to work together." And that's what the Obama campaign is about, he said.

Current polls have it as a dead heat in Ohio. Obama has whittled down a commanding lead by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton, too has volunteers pouring into the state.

Fenty said many people are asking, "How will an Obama administration run the country?" So he answers that change is made by the people and the people will have a big impact on how country will be run, the people and their organizations.

Some 110 people filled two buses organized by Chicago's 46th Ward Democrats to be part of the volunteer effort. Hundreds of other volunteers from Chicago had gone by bus and car to other parts of Ohio to canvass as well.

The buses were filled by canvassers from the 46th Ward and from across the city. Groups came from the Black Nurses Association, high school students with the civics group Mikva Challenge and their teachers from the Westside neighborhood of North Lawndale and students from suburban Naperville North High School, to activists from the Evanston Democratic Party organization.

One African American activist said this was the first campaign she had been in since the election of Mayor Harold Washington. "This is the first time I have been inspired in the same way by a candidate," she said.

Leading the canvassing were State Senator Heather Steans and State Rep. Julie Hamos. They have been working closely with Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Alderman Joe Moore to organize canvassing for Obama in other states like Iowa and Wisconsin. Moore had led a group to Cleveland.

There are signs everywhere for Obama in this Cincinnati neighborhood that is predominantly African American. There are 11 or 12 staging areas for volunteers throughout the city. A few days ago there was a big rally of 13,000 people.

This neighborhood is made up of single-family homes with apartment buildings scattered throughout. Economically, the neighborhood seems like it's been pretty hard hit with a number of vacant homes. Our staging area was in a mall that seemed like it was mostly shutdown.

People want change. And the change they want seems to be in the message given by the Illinois senator, shared prosperity, opportunity, unity and hope.

Altogether canvassers knocked on 10,000 doors throughout the hilly neighborhoods and returned to Chicago feeling like they had helped to make history. As the bus made its way home from the staging area on Reading Road, it passed blocks of Obama sign wavers encouraging people to get out and vote. A chorus of honks from passing motorists responded enthusiastically to them.

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