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Obama's campaign no footnote in Florence.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

FLORENCE - Barack Obama made history when he accepted the nomination from his party to run for president last month, becoming the first minority to get the ultimate nod from one of the major parties. Today he'll make history again, albeit in a slightly smaller way: He's opening what may be the first-ever campaign headquarters for a presidential candidate in the City of Rhododendrons.

That's slightly unofficial - someone could have opened an office here in the past without making much of a splash - but if you ask around town, people say they can't remember a candidate ever setting up shop here.

"I don't ever remember one," said Bud Miles, who's lived here all of his 74 years. "But I wish it was (Sen. John) McCain rather than Obama. I'm a die-hard Republican."

Nor did Zane Ziemer, who's lived in Florence for 70-plus years, remember another example of a campaign office in Florence. Nor Wilber Ternyik, who has lived in Florence since 1949.

"It says something about Obama being very well organized," Ternyik said.

That it does. With polls showing Oregon leaning toward Obama, there are certainly other states in the country with more swing potential, certainly cities more crucial to the campaign than Florence. But that's not the point, says Rosie Shatkin, the Obama office manager.

"We want to put Florence on the map, to do recruiting and make connections with voters here," Shatkin said.

The building, at 494 Hwy. 101, has been an antique store, a dress shop and a second-hand store. Now it's Obama-central on the coast, thanks to owner Don Landstrom's donation of the space.

Even before today's grand opening, the headquarters has already attracted dozens of would-be volunteers and curious voters, including Rozika Poirrer, who immigrated from Bosnia 30 years ago but has yet to cast a vote here - until now.

"I see Obama as a smart young man who came from the people and is part of the people," Poirrer said.

Sahar Wali, communications director for Obama's statewide campaign, said the candidate is working all 36 of Oregon's counties. Florence's office is one of 13 statewide.

"Reaching out to coastal communities is a big part of what we're doing here," Wali said. "We've had a great response from people who have been longtime Republicans, from areas in Oregon to areas you'd never assume would vote for Barack Obama: places like Florence, eastern Oregon; we want to have a presence across the state to ensure that those people are part of the campaign."

McCain campaign officials didn't return phone calls from The Register-Guard Thursday.

Florence Mayor Phil Brubaker said the office shows the town's burgeoning status, but that most people in town seem to care more about local issues than federal ones - with one major exception.

"The one federal issue that is always top of mind is `How much is my Social Security increase going to be next year,'" Brubaker said.
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Title Annotation:Politics; The presidential candidate is the first in memory to open a coastal headquarters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 12, 2008
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