Local news

Emotions, hopes high at rallies

SATURDAY, FEB. 9, 2008

After her rally Friday at the West Central Community Center, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton dropped by the Girl Scouts Inland Empire Council, where about 300 people who couldn’t fit into the center had been watching the Democratic candidate on a large screen.

When the door opened and Clinton walked through, the crowd rushed to greet her. One woman emerged from the throng crying and clutching a little camera.

“All I wanted was my picture taken with Hillary,” she said.

And there it was on her digital screen, a picture of the candidate and Rosanne Love, a woman from the West Central neighborhood whose 19-year-old son, Marine Pfc. Dennis Mitchell, died of heat exhaustion while training on Okinawa, Japan, in 2004.

“I wanted to tell her to make the war end,” Love said, still weeping. “I told her.”

It was an emotional day for Democrats in Spokane as many chose between going to see the person who may become the first woman president or the wife of the man who may become the first president of color.

The crowd that chose to see Michelle Obama, wife of Sen. Barack Obama, started lining up in front of the Fox theater downtown about two hours before she was scheduled to speak.

Washington State University students Veronica Mitchel, Achille Davisson, Caitlin Foster and Trae McInroe arrived around noon to get at the front of the line. They talked to anyone who looked like a campaign worker or theater employee, asking if they could meet the wife of the candidate they’ve supported for months.

It paid off. The four members of WSU’s Students for Barack Obama group sat on the bleachers behind Michelle Obama during her speech.

“I felt like I was seeing ‘N Sync again,” said Mitchel, 20, referring to the boy band. “She’s my hero. I love her so much.”

For Mitch Smith, a member of Sprinkler Fitters Union Local 669, the choice was as clear as his impression of the candidates. He could be at the Fox, “built by the rich to serve the rich,” or the West Central Community Center, “built by the people to serve the people.”

He chose Clinton and West Central.

“It’s wonderful she came to a real American neighborhood with real American needs like affordable health care and housing,” said Toni Lodge, director of the Native Health Clinic, down the street from the community center.

Obama supporter Adam McDonald was hoping to attend both campaign events, but he was among the nearly 2,000 people turned away from the Clinton rally. The 21-year-old Gonzaga University student managed to get into the Obama event.

“I didn’t know there were this many Democrats in Eastern Washington,” McDonald said.

Support from students like McDonald is one thing Spokane resident Amy Ferris likes about Obama.

Ferris and her husband brought their two children to see the wife of the man she said is the first political candidate she’s truly supported.

“I’ve always voted, but it’s always been the lesser of two evils,” she said. “There’s just a genuineness to him.”

In a sign of Clinton’s support among Hispanics, Oralia Gamboa, a retired agricultural industry worker, traveled from Moses Lake “to see the next president. … All my family is going to vote for her.”

Carol Bryan, a Mead School District teacher, remembered the day in 1984 when she took her infant daughter to the Davenport Hotel to see vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

“It has taken us 23 years to take the next step,” Bryan said.

Jeff and Claudia Jones drove four hours from Walla Walla to see Obama speak. They didn’t get in. But unlike the droves of teenagers at the event, the Joneses weren’t looking to attend their first political rally. The couple saw Sen. John Kerry speak in Portland in 2004.

This year, “We think Obama’s the only game in town,” said Jeff Jones, 51. “We really supported Hillary Clinton, but she voted for the war.”


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