Hundreds Show Up For Opening Of Obama Headquarters

Jul 16, 2008

William March

The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - A largely young, racially diverse crowd of several hundred people chanting "Yes we can" at the top of their lungs showed up for the opening of Barack Obama's statewide campaign headquarters in an Ybor City office building this afternoon.

The office, which has been functioning for about two weeks, will be the nerve center of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's attempt to win Florida. The workspace can hold as many as 40 people, including field workers who are in training before moving to other parts of the state, campaign officials said. More than 30 are housed there now, said Adora Andy, Tampa area regional spokeswoman for the campaign.

Florida campaign leaders said the location was chosen for reasons of both strategy and message.

They wanted an office in the crucial swing area of Florida, the Interstate 4 corridor.

In addition, "It's consistent with Obama's message that we have to do this together," said Frank Sanchez of Tampa, Obama's lead Hispanic fundraiser. "Ybor grew up as a community of immigrants of all races, and it prospered because they helped each other."

The office, at 1771 E. Ninth Ave., is a typical campaign headquarters a scruffy, second-floor workspace that formerly housed an architectural firm, with temporary partitions, desks, computers, coffee machines and phones crammed into odd spaces and take-out pizza menus tacked to the walls.

The staff is a mix of veteran Florida political operatives and national Obama campaign staff members who parachuted into Florida for the election season.

The Florida veterans, however, appear to be in charge. State director Steve Schale and the communications director Mark Bubriski, for example, are Florida veterans who until recently worked for the state Democratic Party. Andy, meanwhile, comes from the campaign and Ashley Walker, Schale's deputy, is a Floridian who has been working on the national campaign.

Obama said the campaign purposely sought a mix of Florida veterans and Obama campaign veterans to ensure a local touch.

Sanchez said the opening and staffing of the office should lay to rest any speculation about whether Obama is committed to winning Florida.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "We're going to be fully engaged here and fight to win."

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