Party Animals Local Political Offices Offer Last-Minute Assistance
By Deborah Salomon
Republican or Democrat, decided or undecided, first-time voter or Ike-liker, the go-to places for information during these last days of a roller coaster campaign might be party headquarters.
Information - and more. Like doughnuts, cookies, coffee, candy and stimulating conversation.
At the Democratic office on West Pennsylvania Avenue you can take a picture hugging the life-sized cardboard President. Barack Obama. The Carthage office keeps the Biden replica. The Republican office on South West Broad Street still has Romney-Ryan yard signs. Obama-Bidens, long gone, were hot souvenirs.
Surprisingly, campaign buttons and some bumper stickers aren't free. Prices range from one to three dollars. But in 50 years, they may be worth hundreds; the official 2008 Obama-Biden jugate - a button with photos of both candidates - is already selling for $44. Political memorabilia appraisers predict it will become among the most valuable ever.
Other merchandise includes cookbooks from Moore County contributors (Dems, $10; Repubs, $3), stuffed donkeys and elephants, T-shirts (about $10), donkey Christmas tree ornaments, ties, jewelry and free bumper stickers for local candidates. In that category, first prize goes to Steve Troxler (Republican), Commis-sioner of Agriculture - a yellow tractor cutout with red lettering.
Expect a few barbs: One sticker in the Dems office says, "Do you keep hearing crazy voices? Turn off Fox news."
At the larger, more visible Republican office, a TV surrounded by easy chairs stays tuned all day to Fox.
"Why would you watch anything else?" says volunteer Bonnie Dougherty.
Party offices are, in spirit, non-proselytizing zones.
"Most people who come in are already our flavor," says Democrat spokesperson Wilma Laney. Independents, however, can expect a nudge.
Laney directs them to a Wall of Facts researched by Moore Country Democratic Party Chairman Jim Heim - "Facts, not that other stuff," Laney says. Headings include security, economy, jobs, health care, taxes, environment.
At Republican HQ, women are drawn to a wall poster picturing Great American Conservative Women, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter and Bay Buchanan. Sarah Palin didn't make the cut. On Saturday, retired Naval officer Dougherty launched policy discussions with gusto.
"I'll sit down and talk to people, explain the party's stance," she says. "I'm concerned that people aren't paying enough attention."
"We compare platforms," volunteer and former Southern Pines Mayor Frank Quis adds.
By now, most voters know where the presidential candidates stand with every platform plank picked to splinters. Ballots, however, contain names for state, judicial and other offices - many unfamiliar to the general public until a few weeks before the election. At party headquarters, investigate Rob Wilkins and Nick Picerno, Walter Dalton and Beth Wood.
Beyond the merchandise, facts and -rhetoric, both offices serve as volunteer -central. People are invited to walk in, offer their services and be assigned jobs: The phone bank, which makes and answers -hundreds of live calls daily. Canvassing neighborhoods, -hoping for face time with -independents and undecideds. The transit pool, which picks up disabled or ride-less voters, drives them to the polling place for no-wait curbside service, and returns them home.
"We're full speed ahead now," Laney says.
On election day, donkeys and elephants will flock to their respective stalls to watch the returns - then celebrate or commiserate. Expect high drama. Maybe somebody will order pizza. Early on, Republicans dubbed their digs Victory Center.
But who knows?
"(These offices) are great for people to stop by and get involved, no matter what party affiliation," Frank Quis says. "We welcome everybody."
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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