Special to South Florida Times
MIAMI GARDENS — The campaign to re-elect Barack Obama president has opened a second area office with a goal of helping the country’s black chief executive garner Florida’s all-important 29 electoral votes in the 2012 election.
Organize for America (OFA) recently opened the office at 4797 NW 183rd St., Miami Gardens, as local headquarters for volunteers and staff.
“We will be the hub of the grassroots organization in this area,” Eric Jotkoff, OFA’s Florida press secretary, said. “On last count, we had about 8,500 active volunteers throughout the state and have spoken to 100,000 Floridians.”
In 2008, Obama became only the third Democratic presidential candidate in nearly a half century to carry Florida in a general election. But with collapsing numbers in the polls due largely to a still flagging economy, the outlook on the road to re-election for Democrats is dim.
“The bad news is that the polls say (Obama) is not doing well but the good news is: who will his opponent be?” Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said during the Nov. 19 office opening.
“(Florida Governor) Rick Scott has tossed wrenches into the process. Florida has a lot of voter suppression laws, so when you hear that Obama is not fighting, that he won’t compromise, know what he is dealing with,” she said.
Wilson and other critics of such laws, especially Democrats, say they create hurdles by requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot, something millions of Americans, including disproportionate numbers of African-American, senior, disabled and student voters do not have.
“So, this year, to our seniors, we say vote from home,” Wilson said. “If we do that, then on that Tuesday night, before the polls close, they will say that Obama has already won. So when you register to vote, when you fill out your ballot, be absolutely careful. Don’t allow Rick Scott or anyone else to stop Barack Obama.”
Florida is the biggest battleground in the election, Steven Montoya, an OFA volunteer, said. “And that’s why this area, Miami Gardens, Little Haiti, Miami Shores and Liberty City are where we need to hit the ground running.”
Gloria McGee, another OFA volunteer and a member of the Miami Gardens Democratic Club, said that the organization is receiving “positive feedback” from residents. “I have talked to a lot of people and they are excited about Obama running for a second term, even more so than in 2008,” she said.
There are 20 OFA staff members on the ground from Tallahassee to Key West, according to Karen Andre, OFA’s deputy political director. “It’s definitely a grassroots affair. No matter what the polls say, we have volunteers and resolve, and will turn the state blue. If we win Florida, we will win the election.”
In order to be successful in 2012, a much larger operation must be organized, according to Ashley Walker, Obama for America state director. “If we do what we need to do, Florida will be a blue state. And what we need to do is get out there.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Photo: KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
PEP TALK: Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., speaks to Obama campaign volunteers at the Nov. 19 opening of an Organize for America office in Miami Gardens.