BRIDGEPORT — Campaigning for what many are calling the most inspirational presidential candidate since his uncle was running, Ted Kennedy Jr. gave the keynote address at the largest Connecticut rally since early September in support of the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
The rally, held at the Mount Aery Baptist Church in this shoreline city, was organized by the office of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. Kennedy, President of a Wall Street investment firm and resident of New Haven, was joined by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven, congressional hopeful Jim Himes and the state’s constitutional officers. Organizers estimated that 1,500 people attended the event, which they called a sign of tremendous enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy as Tuesday’s election approaches.
The event was just one outlet of Obama support this weekend among scores of other rallies across the country, Kennedy noted.
“I think there is a lot of excitement and anticipation for the next 48 hours,” he said.
As evidenced by the number of posters, stickers and buttons displaying support, it was clear that the atmosphere at the rally was charged with energy not just for Obama but for the entire slate of Democratic political candidates running in Connecticut.
“Vote Row B,” said Dodd, referring to the Democratic Party’s position on state ballots.
For Himes, this was yet another time to make his case to unseat the 21-year incumbent in Connecticut’s fourth Congressional district, Rep. Chris Shays. For Himes, every last vote will count; the most recent poll in his race, conducted Oct. 20 by the University of Connecticut, showed him and Shays tied with 44 percent of the vote.
Before a crowd of supporters sporting Obama-Himes buttons, Himes said he looks forward to joining Obama in bringing change to the country.
“President Obama will need all the help he can get in Congress to restore America’s standing,” he said. “My opponent has voted consistently with President Bush, and the last thing we need is more of the same failed policies.”
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and State Comptroller Nancy Wyman read a letter written by Obama urging voters to get out to the polls Nov. 4 despite the nearly 25 percent lead he has in Connecticut according to recent polls. It was a sentiment echoed by many of the speakers, including Dodd.
“Call up all of your friends and relatives in Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Ohio and tell them to vote for Barack Obama,” he said. “Tell them we are watching, that we will hold them personally responsible for the outcome of the election.”
Susan Bysiewicz, the secretary of the state, called Obama a “transformational figure” and credited the support he has from young voters as responsible for the state’s record number of new voter registrations. The audience, a mixture of both the young and the elderly, was clearly enthused by the speakers, a fact evident to rally organizers.
“Among all the rallies I’ve organized, this has been the easiest,” said Tyrone McClain, the director of constituent services and special projects in Finch’s office. “Everyone, including the [public officials], was excited to come.”
Organizers said the rally was designed to encourage residents to vote on Tuesday. And based on interviews with attendees, it appears the event did just that.
“This rally is really going to help people get out to the polls,” said Stephanie Hardison, a member of the church that hosted the event. “Especially [members of our community] who haven’t been voting for years.”