With eight days remaining until Election Day, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign has opened another Ann Arbor field office only a few blocks from the Diag. The office was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon yesterday.
The building, at 340 Maynard St. next to Café Ambrosia and the Student Bike Shop, will serve as the campus campaign boiler room — a central staging location for the Obama campaign’s Get Out the Vote efforts.
Campaign signs for Obama and other Democratic campaigns line the windows. A mural with a silhouette of Obama — painted by LSA junior Lindsay Miars — and a cartoon call-out saying, “Come on in!” greet passersby walking down Maynard Street.
“I didn’t want it to seem too professional,” Miars said. “More welcoming, something to get people to walk in.”
LSA junior Dana Cronyn, a member of the College Democrats executive board, said the new office’s location makes it easier for students to work for the campaign in between classes.
While the Ann Arbor campaign office was always open to students, Cronyn said its location — west of Main Street on Liberty Street — often made it difficult for students to drop by.
“We had to tell people ‘You can schlep down to Main or come to our Thursday meetings,’ but this is an office that is open 16 hours a day, that’s a lot more accessible,” she said. “We’re being a lot more effective in the area because of this.”
About 20 students came to the opening.
“It was obviously a little last minute,” Miars said. “It was kinda cool. I’ve never been handed a building and told, ‘you can do whatever you want with this.'”
College Democrats Chair Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, a Public Policy junior, said it was the campaign field organizer assigned to coordinating with the College Democrats, Brian Straw, who asked the campaign to open the office within a few blocks of Central Campus.
“It’s only because of everything we’ve been doing on campus that the campaign was willing to give us this office to amplify those efforts,” Straw told a group of student volunteers yesterday.
The College Democrats have held multiple registration drives and canvassing efforts for their candidate. Between the start of the school year and the Oct. 6 registration deadline, they registered more than 4,000 voters.
Straw said the next step is getting those people they registered to show up at the polls next week.
The office was leased by the Obama campaign for two weeks at a cost of about $1,000, Styer said. Obama campaign officials were not available for comment.
When the College Democrat volunteers got to the new storefront Friday, though, they had their work cut out for them.
“This place was a dump,” Styer said of the former jewelry store. “It was basically trashed.”
Cronyn said when they first arrived at the building there was no lighting, the walls were covered in Brillo pads and pennies, there were rust stains on the floors and walls and glass shards scattered around.
“It was a very bizarre space to step into it,” she said. “I guess you can’t be too picky when you’re trying to rent an office for 13 days.”
Ten people worked while listening to Bruce Springsteen for about eight to 10 hours Friday to clean, organize and decorate the space, Styer said.
Three coats of primer later, a five-foot diameter Obama campaign logo was painted on one of the walls. On the adjacent wall, a makeshift calendar made of tape and spanning about 10 feet.
That calendar, which has space for each of the final nine days leading up to Nov. 4, will serve to coordinate the group’s canvassing and Get Out the Vote efforts.
Students will be able to come in and make phone calls for Obama, even if they only have 15 minutes, she said. Volunteers can stop in and pick up a canvassing packet with a list of registered voters if they have even a three-hour break between classes to knock on doors.
At the opening of the office, State Sen. Liz Brater (D – Ann Arbor) praised the College Democrats’ efforts to turn out voters near campus and encouraged them to continue.
“U of M and Ann Arbor have always been ground zero for taking the state of Michigan for Democrats,” Brater said. “I don’t want anybody to be lulled by the polls.”