Volunteers stump for Clinton, Obama

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — Volunteers for the presidential campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama held get-out-the-vote events in the Fair Haven neighborhood Saturday, three days before Connecticut goes to the polls in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Both groups in Fair Haven, a heavily Latino section of New Haven, featured Spanish-speaking volunteers and coordinators.

For Clinton’s campaign, state Rep. Juan Candelaria went door to door with other supporters, while the Connecticut Latinos for Obama group held its New Haven kick-off event.

About 40 Obama supporters met in the Noche Mia facility on Grand Street, which was bare Saturday but will now become the candidate’s New Haven headquarters. Members of the local Latino community spoke about why they are campaigning for the Illinois senator.

“Sen. Obama fought on the streets of Chicago with Latinos — fighting for jobs, fighting for justice,” Alderman Joe Rodriguez said. “He has been fighting for Latinos and he’ll continue to fight for Latinos when he is the president of the United States.”

Kica Matos, New Haven community services administrator and one of the group’s organizers, said that part of the impetus in having an official Latinos for Obama group was the discussion about whether Latinos will vote for a black candidate.

“There were a lot of people that were saying that Latinos would not support Barack, and so we thought it was important to express in the most vocal way possible our support for him,” Matos said.

She added that she thinks people in the Latino community are backing him for many different reasons, but some of the main ones are his positions on health care, education and immigration reform.

Norma Rodríguez-Reyes, vice chairwoman of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, told the group that she is a “fresh convert” to Obama’s camp.

“Hillary is a woman, so we as women are very excited about that, but Obama knows where we’re coming from,” she said. “What I’m hoping will end up is a good Obama/Hillary ticket — preferably Obama on top and Hillary as vice-president.”

A group of about 20 people, including college students and Fair Haven residents, also met on Grand Street to support Clinton. Holding signs reading “América con Hillary,” they broke into pairs to knock on doors and encourage people to vote for Clinton on Tuesday.

John Williams, a constituent outreach coordinator with Clinton’s campaign, said the goal in the days before the election is to make sure that supporters vote on Tuesday. He added that the efforts weren’t aimed only at Latino voters.

“We’re just looking to talk to voters in general and we’re very grateful for the support of the Latino voters we’ve seen so far,” Williams said. “I think it just speaks to the nuts and bolts that Sen. Clinton’s been talking about in general — working families that are trying to get ahead.”

Candelaria, whose district includes the Fair Haven area, spoke to the group in English and Spanish. Clinton is a person that knows the “problems that affect our community (and) understands our community,” he said in Spanish.

“I think what she has to offer (Latinos) is what she has to offer to every American,” Candelaria said, mentioning universal health care as a key element. “The Latinos and the minorities are the ones who are suffering because they cannot afford health care.”

In the run-up to this week’s Super Tuesday, when voters in more than 20 states will cast primary ballots, Connecticut has unexpectedly become a locus of political activity. Both Clinton and Obama will visit the state on Monday. Clinton’s schedule is not yet set, and Obama will hold a rally in Hartford. Sen. John McCain, one of the top contenders for the Republican nomination, will also speak at Sacred Heart University today.

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