Party Headquarters Are Hubs of Activity
From lipstick to cookbooks, political party headquarters are the place to be. That's where the action begins.
As never before, interest is heightened in the Nov. 4 general election by the nominations of the first black Democratic candidate for president and the first woman Republican candidate for vice president.
And you can feel the excitement in these offices.
"Traffic is nonstop," said Michelle Kelly, a volunteer in the Republican headquarters on East Pennsylvania Avenue in Southern Pines. "They're so excited. I think it's the most excited I've seen people in eight years."
Kelly said many of the folks who stop by say they like Sarah Palin, the GOP candidate for vice president.
"They say 'I love Palin,'" Kelly said. "I think Palin will help our local candidates."
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole pulled up in her big campaign bus to speak to supporters at GOP headquarters.
In Carthage, the Democrats show just as much enthusiasm for their candidates, from the local scene to the Obama-Biden presidential campaign.
"It's been lively," said Carolyn McDermott, who co-chairs the "Get Out the Vote" effort with Mary Alice Wicker. "We're really pleased with our turnout."
McDermott said the Carthage office receives a surprisingly large number of walk-in visitors, residents who just happen to come to the county seat and drop in for a chat.
At one point, the Democratic headquarters in Carthage was completely out of campaign signs. Party leaders immediately ordered more, but they were startled by the speed with which the signs were picked up by campaign workers.
Although personnel in the two offices deny any similarity between their services, it is obvious that both the Democratic headquarters and the Republican headquarters offer many of the same services.
Both offer information. Volunteers answer questions, offer rides to polling places, and distribute sample ballots and a multitude of party information. Before registration books closed, they also provided registration assistance.
The first sight in the GOP offices is a larger-than-life poster of Bill Daughtridge, candidate for state treasurer.
Desks, tables, and bookcases contain stacks of cards, buttons and leaflets on various candidates. One spread promotes Maureen Krueger for district attorney. A stack of cards asks visitors to vote for Ed Dennison, candidate for the nonpartisan Board of Education.
But it is the Palin emphasis that attracts the most attention. A huge bowl contains Palin buttons, and it is quickly emptied. Palin signs, buttons, pins, bumper stickers are everywhere. Some say simply "Sarah!"
Kelly said Palin supporters are needling Democrats by mailing lipstick tubes to Democratic National headquarters in Washington, D.C. Without a return address, of course.
At Democratic headquarters in Carthage, the volunteers know nothing about the lipstick campaign. The Democrats in Washington must be throwing them away, unless they're making anonymous donations of make-up to needy women in the nation's capital.
Sybil Ryan, a volunteer at the Democratic office, said the Carthage site is used for a variety of services. This is where volunteers gather to assemble bags for canvassing.
They stuff each cellophane bag with a sample ballot, registration information, literature on every Democratic candidate, a copy of the N.C. Ticket for Change agenda and other material. If residents are not at home when the canvasser calls, the volunteer leaves the packet on the doorknob.
The Ticket for Change includes the names of Kay Hagan, candidate for U.S. Senate; Teresa Sue Bratton, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives; Beverly Perdue, candidate for governor; Betty Mangum of Pinehurst, candidate for state House of Representatives; and Abraham Oudeh, candidate for state Senate, as well as the full slate of Democratic candidates for all other state offices.
On a table is an array of eye-catching items for sale. T-shirts bear a picture of Barack Obama or a kicking donkey, the party mascot, along with other T-shirts and donkey-decorated caps and Democratic Party jewelry. Also on sale is the local party's cookbook, "Liberally Seasoned."
Caps with the donkey mascot are picked up quickly. Ryan notes that only four remain.
"We get a lot of calls," Ryan said. "A lot of people are looking for Obama material especially."
Both campaign offices provide a list of candidates from their own party, including candidates for nonpartisan offices.
Those running for nonpartisan offices who just happen to be registered as Democrats are named on the Democratic Party list and those registered as Republicans are on the GOP list. These candidates are running for Board of Education and the judiciary.
Kelly said her office fields numerous inquiries about judicial office. Many callers are unaware that these offices are now nonpartisan and the party affiliation of candidates will not be mentioned on the ballot. Voters must mark their preferences separately for these offices.
Rely on Volunteers
Something new at the GOP office is a round McCain-Palin campaign sticker. The red, white and blue sticker is European style and is popular, according to Kelly.
The Republicans' reception room is wall to wall with signs, posters, stickers and other campaign paraphernalia.
Each group or special interest has a poster or bumper sticker of its own: Veterans for McCain, Women for McCain, Women for Dole, Young Republicans, Republican Women, Republican Men, and Veterans for Dole, Women Golfers for this or that candidate, among others.
Also on the front desk is a stack of the leaflets published by the Moore County GOP leadership citing 10 reasons not to vote for Democrats and 10 reasons to vote for Republicans. The controversial flier was distributed as a paid advertising insert in The Pilot.
Kelly said at least 20 residents visited the office in the first few hours, and the telephone rings frequently.
The GOP women held a rally at headquarters on Sept. 15, when attendance exceeded 50.
Kelly is just one of "a huge list of volunteers" taking turns working at headquarters. She also chairs the Coalition for McCain in Moore County. Some volunteers work from their homes.
"We've been working hard to get our people Internet savvy, so they can work better and also work from home," Kelly said.
Ryan estimates that Moore County Democrats have hundreds of volunteers. About 30 help out on a regular basis at the office.
Others come in for special occasions or to help in a particular campaign. And, of course, they need more volunteers. An unspecified number of volunteers can be found working in the Barack Obama campaign as well as at the Democratic headquarters.
Ryan said that the Democratic Party leadership is picking up help through the Obama campaign, which has separate headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southern Pines. They are using a voter list compiled by the Obama campaign and are using those names to advise people about other Democratic candidates.
Extra telephones have been installed.
"People walk in and ask for bumper stickers," Ryan said. "They want to register. They ask questions about early voting and polling places and absentee ballots."
Miniature Election Offices
The Democratic headquarters is a good place for campaigns to make deliveries for their candidates and to pick up materials for further distribution.
When the party first opened the office in Carthage, critics said no one would be interested because the town is not as populous as Southern Pines and Pinehurst. But Ryan said now most Democrats have come to like the headquarters in Carthage.
This is the county seat, and many people must come to Carthage to transact business. The location on McNeill Street is easy to find, parking is easier to find and the rent more reasonable than it was in the previous location in downtown Southern Pines. The Carthage office is also closer to Democrats who live in Robbins and other parts of northern Moore County.
Both campaign headquarters could be likened to miniature elections offices, for much of the same information is available about ballots, registration and voting. It's just that you can't cast a vote there. The registration books closed Oct. 10, so you can't register there anymore either.
Democratic headquarters are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and sometimes on Sunday afternoon as well. The telephone number is 947-1933.
Republican headquarters recently implemented new hours: noon until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. The main telephone number is 693-7467. After hours there is a monitored answering machine at 215-9060. The GOP also has a new office in Robbins.
Activity will not end until the day after the election.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at florence @thepilot.com.
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