By Linda Harmon
Barack Obama will get a birthday present from Ojai on Aug. 4 when Ojai for Obama, a grass-roots group of supporters, opens its campaign headquarters at 323 E. Matilija St., Suite 116, at the corner of Montgomery Street, down from the Sunday Farmers’ Market.
“We are planning on opening a space where people can focus their energies,” said David Bush, an Obama supporter and one of four steering committee members that are setting up the Ojai headquarters. Other committee members are Sue Broidy, Stephen Rose and Peter Strauss. “We are a special community and we have a special candidate this year. We plan on making it a place where people can all come together, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, to elect Mr. Obama.”
According to McCain supporter and Republican caucus chair for Ventura County Mary Osborn, “We will not have an official storefront in Ojai, but we plan on launching a campaign in the valley.” Chris Collier, a McCain spokesperson, says the nearest headquarters is scheduled to open in Ventura at an undisclosed location.
The Obama office will operate under the direct supervision of one of the four alternating senior staff members, supplemented by volunteers, with Broidy as office manager.
“We already have a long list of volunteers,” said Bush, who held a successful Fourth of July fund-raising event for Obama in Meiners Oaks, part of the national Unite for a Change Day. “We raised $1,100 over the course of the day and an additional $530 was pledged online.”
According to Bush, the event drew more than 100 people over the course of the five-hour event, which featured live music and a barbecue, raising money by donations.
“As far as I know there has never been a campaign office here,” said Broidy. “For the last seven years that I have been involved with the Ojai Democrats it has usually been in my living room! I am thrilled that it is happening … It means we can all be campaign strategists now instead of relying on directions from a distant party consultant.”
David Mason, local historian, said that a trailer in the parking lot of what is now Starr Market served as a campaign office for John Kennedy’s successful bid for the presidency in 1960.
According to Broidy, Rose was the person to get the ball rolling.
“I was one of the original fund raisers for Obama over a year ago in L.A. right after he declared,” said Rose, who was then in the entertainment business and has since moved to Ojai. “The whole campaign has been about urging people to create their own experience. How could we not have an office in Ojai?”
The organization will have three main goals: phone banking, fund raising and voter registration. Rose says it will be a group effort and there will be “a main thrust to get teenagers involved in handing out fliers and registering voters.”
According to Bush, the organization already has plans for Friday night “socials” where volunteers can get together, brainstorm and plan.
“No more going over the hill for Obama supporters,” said Bush, who has joined others in Camarillo for earlier events. “As far as I know we are actually the Ventura County headquarters. I hope everyone will come join us for our grand opening (Aug. 4. 6 to 9 p.m.).”
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By Linda Harmon