Obama supporters rally to open Henderson headquarters

Grassroots group laying groundwork for 2012 campaign


Leila Navidi

Supplies inside the Organizing for America-Nevada office in Henderson Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011.

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 (2 a.m.)

The conventional wisdom is that the biggest hurdle to President Barack Obama's reelection is a dispirited and disappointed base.

But judging by the 100 people who showed up Thursday night for the opening of a Henderson campaign office for Obama, the president still has a lot of ardent supporters willing to campaign on his behalf.

The group reflected the young and minority voters who were key to Obama's historic victory in 2008.

Organizing for America, the group that opened the office, formed shortly after Obama was inaugurated in 2009 to preserve the grassroots organization that help elect Obama and lay the groundwork for a second term.

Delray Gjestvang, a robotics programmer and car builder, admitted he doesn’t like the way things are going in Washington, but “it’s not Obama’s fault. Republicans won’t work with him.”

While some people in attendance said organizers received 300 RSVPs from people invited to the opening, Michael Campbell, press secretary of Organizing for America-Nevada, could not immediately confirm that number.

Aside from rank-and-file citizens and volunteers, some elected leaders showed up, including State Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, said the presidential election will be a battle to protect Social Security and Medicare.

She briefly recounted what everyone in the office knows — that Nevada has been devastated by the recession, a situation that she believes has led to an increase in “lots of folks … committing suicide.”

“I don’t know how Republicans feel, but (the economic problems) do not just affect Democrats,” she added.

Nick Di Archangel, who lives near the office and is also a spokesman for the Service International Employees Union, called it “inspiring to see so many people so early showing up and getting into the campaign.”

“There was a lot of energy around his campaign the first time, and this shows he hasn’t lost any of that,” said Di Archangel, who added that he views Obama as the only candidate “who has an eye toward improvement for the middle class.”

Organizers took advantage of the large crowd. When the speeches ended, they handed out sheets with the names and phone numbers of people who had volunteered for Obama’s first presidential campaign. They urged volunteers to call and urge them to show up at the Jan. 21 caucus and come to other events.

In a news release, Organizing for America-Nevada boasted that its volunteers have already made more than 282,000 phone calls to supporters, held more than 2,500 one-on-one meetings and hosted more than 490 house parties and meetings.

They could add at least one more phone call, made by Audrey Martinelli, who sat on the sidewalk outside the office Thursday with her list of names and numbers and started making calls.

A 26-year-old UNLV student, Martinelli said Obama's health care law touched her personally because its provision requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing health problems aided a relative. Obama also increased Pell Grant funding for college students.

“I’m a student at UNLV and extending Pell Grants is what’s paying for me to be at school right now,” she said, then turned to her sheet and started punching another number into her cell phone.

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