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New Charleston group encourages vote for Obama

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Building on the enthusiasm from this week's Democratic National Convention, a group of state Democrats will launch a campaign Saturday aimed at getting more West Virginians out to vote for President Barack Obama in November.

WV Forward, a new state political action committee founded to support the president, will open its office on Lee Street in downtown Charleston at 10 a.m. Saturday. The office is across from the BB&T building.

The PAC was founded by a group of local Democrats who wanted to build local enthusiasm for the president, spokeswoman Hazel Palmer said.

"There's a few of us who felt strongly that we needed to have an office that supported the reelection of President Obama here in Kanawha County," she said.

West Virginia has hardly been a favorable place for Obama.

The president lost the state to Republican John McCain by a 13-point margin in 2008. In May, federal inmate Keith Judd got 41 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Results from an August edition of The West Virginia Poll found Obama trailing Republican Mitt Romney by 14 points among likely voters surveyed.

Pundits have said the state is a lock for Romney in November, but Palmer said the nomination of Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan by Republicans paints a sharp contrast for voters in the upcoming election.

"I think the choices are clear now," she said. "West Virginians who value their Social Security, value their Medicare and value their free preventative health measures provided under the Affordable Care Act are starting to appreciate the leadership of President Obama."

The president's official campaign has been a somewhat low-key operation in Southern West Virginia.

Palmer said the state office of the president's campaign is based in the Northern Panhandle. She said many Charleston Democrats wanted a local office to help campaign for the Democratic ticket.

"We felt there needed to be a presence here," she said. "We've found a lot of support and people who want to get involved, and we felt we needed a place for everyone to focus their energy."

She said the PAC raised enough money to rent the Lee Street space and pay for six cellphones through November.

The office will be open daily and staffed by volunteers. Palmer said 16 had signed up to work Saturday.

Volunteers will call people and ask them to register to vote and to be sure to get out on Election Day to support the full Democratic ticket.

Palmer said some of the volunteers were attending the Democratic National Convention this week and were hoping to build on the enthusiasm the event has generated for the party base.

"Volunteers are energized and they're getting ready to get started," she said. "We were feeling that enthusiasm actually before the convention. I'm sure the convention will help take it up a notch."

While the Democratic group is marking the opening of its PAC office Saturday morning, Republicans are planning an event of their own at their office in the Charleston Town Center today.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Raese will be on hand for a town hall meeting at noon Friday at the GOP Victory Center in the mall. Raese plans to take questions from the public during the event.

Raese is facing Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin in the November election.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-5148. 


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