January 12th, 2008 | Uncategorized

Af-Am house plays host to Obama CT kickoff event

NEW HAVEN, Conn. 4:25 p.m. — Although most undergraduates have yet to return from winter break, Yale’s campus is already buzzing with campaign organizing in the run-up to what some have called “super-duper Tuesday” on Feb. 5, when 24 states are scheduled to hold their primary elections.

Hundreds of Connecticut supporters, grassroots organizers and campaign officials of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president convened this morning at Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center to urge locals to get involved in the Illinois freshman’s campaign in the remaining weeks before Connecticut’s primary.

Former Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Ned Lamont SOM ’80 publicly endorsed Obama’s candidacy this week, but the Greenwich businessman failed to make an appearance at this morning’s event.

But several other prominent Connecticut Democrats who have endorsed Obama following Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s exit from the presidential race 10 days ago appeared at the meeting. In attendance were State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven, Connecticut Democratic Party Vice-Chair Steve Fontana, House of Representatives Deputy Majority Leader Demetrios Giannaros and Fairfield Mayor Ken Flatto and others.

Organizers urged volunteers to make the most of the few weeks remaining before Connecticut voters make their way to the polls.

“Connecticut matters,” Williams said. “The work we do is critical to the success of this campaign.”

Lex Paulson ’02, who organizes Obama volunteers in Connecticut’s fourth congressional district, said the meeting represents a turning point in the structure of the campaign.

“We’re moving from a volunteer-driven operation to one that is professionally staffed and more centrally controlled,” he said. “Today is a major, major transition for us.”

Paulson, who was involved with the Yale College Democrats during his time on campus, said he first became involved in the Obama campaign after attending a meeting held by event coordinator Val McCall during his five-year reunion in June. He said he thinks Obama’s candidacy is a chance for a “generational transition” in Amerian politics.

“We get trapped in a lot of garbage baby-boomer issues,” he said.

Although Obama enjoys wide support among Yalies — a recent News poll found that he has the backing of 26.4 percent of undergraduates, compared to 12.1 percent for Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 — supporters said Obama faces an uphill battle in Connecticut.

Flatto said Clinton, who represents neighboring New York, has a geographic advantage.

“[Clinton] has had more long-term exposure and people are more familiar with her,” Flatto said.

Elizabeth Fry GRD ’12, who spent the days before the New Hampshire primary campaigning door to door for Obama, said his transcendence of typical political partisanship was what attracted her to the candidate most.

“If we want something to happen, we need someone who can actually bring people together,” Fry said.

McCall said Yale’s campus was chosen for the event because of its central location within Connecticut.

-June Torbati