Volunteers from Baltimore; Lansing, Mich.; and Penn State spoke at the event.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick addressed a crowd of more than 100 union members and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama supporters at the New Bethel Baptist Church on Hillman Street, stumping for the Democratic presidential candidate in the final days before Tuesday’s primary election.
The Saturday evening event was hosted by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union with cooperation from the Teamsters’ union. Obama campaign volunteers from as far away as California and Cameroon, Africa, were in attendance, as well.
In his speech, Patrick said that his close friend Obama, D-Ill., was the candidate with the vision to improve life for working-class people and restore confidence in the American dream.
“He has great ideas on how to add jobs and grow the economy,” said Patrick. “He has great ideas about investing in education, particularly early education. He’s got great ideas about health care.”
But Patrick said it was Obama’s promise to change Washington that set him apart from other candidates.
“Nobody’s good ideas are going anywhere if we don’t change our politics,” he said. “That’s where Obama is unique.”
Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts, drew parallels between his rise to political power and that of the fellow Chicago native Obama. The pair’s friendship made headlines recently after Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Obama of borrowing from Patrick’s speeches without proper attribution.
Patrick ended his speech with a call for a grass-roots turn-out-the-vote effort, drawing a standing ovation.
“A lot of people are nervous about putting their hope on the line,” he said. “They’re nervous that he might not win. I am convinced that if we vote our aspirations, Barack Obama will win, and so will we.”
Volunteers from Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania State University; and Lansing, Mich., spoke at the event, saying they had traveled to Youngstown to campaign for Obama in the final days leading up to the primary.
Union members and volunteers — many of them college students — have been canvassing city neighborhoods, calling registered voters and reaching out to union members on Obama’s behalf, according to SEIU spokeswoman Jennifer Farmer.
Oakmont, Pa., resident Vince Flotta, 33, took a week off his job as a cook in an nursing home to come to Ohio and campaign for Obama. He spent Saturday campaigning door to door in Youngstown neighborhoods.
“He’s from a lower-middle class family like me,” Flotta said. “We need someone who understands the problems of the common man.”