Democrats adopt grassroots approach

Sarah McGrath

They gather in small groups in each other’s homes and on picnic tables in the park, rather than sleeping in and relaxing on the weekends. These individuals, young and old alike, are going door to door talking to their neighbors, all with one goal – to see the man they all support realize his dream.

Canvassing, the grassroots effort of knocking on doors and speaking with voters, is just one way Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is trying to reach potential voters in the Kent area and across the country.

Mike Parsons, a 42-year-old former Akron city councilman living in Brimfield, has hosted two canvassing events in the past two weeks and plans to host more.

“The campaign’s purpose of doing this is to identify where their supporters are at,” Parsons said. “You can give someone information they can use to make a decision, and you can present an affirmative argument on why our candidate, Barack Obama, is a superior candidate to Republican candidate John McCain.”

Such events allow Obama’s supporters to organize before spending a day canvassing a neighborhood. Representatives from the Obama campaign also attend to questions and coordinate which doors volunteers will knock on.

But canvassing is not the only way the campaign is trying to reach undecided voters. By working closely with the Portage County Democratic Party, the Obama campaign organizes events all over the area to get itsmessage out.

From hosting house parties where people go to have dinner and then discuss why they support Obama, to phone banks, which involve a group of people calling their neighbors, this is a very grassroots campaign, said Sandy Halem, the second vice chair and office manager of the Portage County Democratic Party.

“This campaign is not a firm believer in just dropping something on your door. They want to talk to you,” said Halem, who works as the liaison between the Portage County Democratic Party and the Obama campaign office in Kent. “We are going to try to give you some information or send you something that will give you the real facts. None of us want people to vote on the basis of rumor; we want people to vote on the basis of fact.”

Much of the outreach efforts conducted by the Obama campaign are done through local volunteers.

“We want ordinary people to be excited about our candidate because if they are excited, we will see a change in this election,” Halem said. “This is a home-to-home campaign, and it has to be this way because this is a campaign about home issues.”

Halem has also said the campaign is beginning to coordinate with the Kent State College Democrats, who did a lot of work on campus during the primary season to reach student voters.

“They are our arms and legs on campus,” Halem said.

For more information on the Obama campaign, go to or visit the campaign office on Main Street in downtown Kent. The Portage County Democratic Party, located on West Main Street in Ravenna, also has volunteer opportunities.

Contact public affairs reporter Sarah McGrath at [email protected].