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November 24, 2014

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ELECTION 2008:

Californians’ work for Obama is here

Their own state in the bag, they trek east, brave cold to boost campaign

Image

Sam Morris

Californians Leigh Kilton-Smith, from left, Stacy Courtney and actress Leslie Bibb (“Talladega Nights,” “Iron Man”) get orientation help from Barack Obama volunteer Rene Thompson while canvassing for the Democratic presidential candidate on a blustery Saturday morning in Sun City Aliante in North Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Californians and Nevadans gather at Nature Discovery Park to get instructions for canvassing.

Las Vegas has gone Hollywood for Barack Obama — or perhaps it’s more correct to say Hollywood has gone Las Vegas.

Last weekend, on one of this fall’s coldest and windiest days, about half of the Democratic presidential candidate’s more than 60 campaign volunteers who gathered at Nature Discovery Park in North Las Vegas were Californians.

The group included a trio of film industry women who had a lot of spirit. What they didn’t have were warm clothes.

That’s how Leslie Bibb, an actress who starred in “Talladega Nights” and “Iron Man,” ended up wearing a $7.99 hooded sweatshirt from CVS as she roamed Sun City Aliante trying to persuade voters to choose the Illinois senator.

Herds of Golden Staters have been migrating through the Cajon Pass to deliver campaign pitches on the doorsteps of Las Vegas Valley homes.

How many Californians have been parachuting in? The Obama campaign isn’t saying — and won’t discuss other details of out-of-staters’ efforts in Nevada.

The Democratic Party in Nevada, spokesman Paul Kinkaid said, is “not encouraging” people to come from out of town. But it is not stopping them either.

California is widely viewed as an automatic win for Obama, while Nevada remains up for grabs. So left-coasters eager to try to help Obama are doing their bit here.

Campaign officials for John McCain say Californians are also coming to Las Vegas to work for the Republican ticket.

But with Democrats enjoying a 80,666-voter advantage in Nevada this year, there are more doors for gung ho Democrats whose mission in the final weeks of the campaign season is to motivate ballot-casting by all those potential voters.

That quest has spawned Web sites with names like drivetonevada.com, aiming to connect to volunteers with car pools and temporary roommates.

Last Saturday at the park in North Las Vegas — 286 miles from Los Angeles — a field organizer thanked “all the people who came from California” during a morning briefing to start a day of door-to-door campaigning.

“Should we tell people we’re from California?” one woman asked.

“Yes, tell them,” said Nick Stoner, a field organizer. “It’s a good way to connect.”

Bibb wasn’t there to attract media attention. That was being done by a higher-profile star, Justin Timberlake, who hosted a rally at the Clark County Amphitheater. Bibb, 33, wants only to be part of what she views as a movement for change. Her mother worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign and now Bibb sees this as a chance to do something for her generation.

“Gas prices are ridiculous,” she said from behind Ray-Ban aviator glasses. “This war is in a way reminiscent of Vietnam.”

So this desire for change, along with an opportunity for a girls’ weekend, brought Bibb and friends to Las Vegas. They went to the Cirque du Soleil show “Love” on Friday. Then the actress hosted a party at Prive in Planet Hollywood.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the women were handed a two-page script (a piece of cake for Bibb) and a manila envelope stuffed with campaign literature and reminders to vote early at the Smith’s near Decatur Boulevard and Ann Road. They had their opinions.

“As a woman it’s the choice issue,” said Stacy Courtney, a stuntwoman who admittedly never thought she’d be ringing doorbells in Nevada.

She got fired up about Obama at a rally in Los Angeles and, lacking a way to make a real difference in her neighborhood, hit the road for him. During the Saturday morning briefing, she learned that President Bush won Nevada by only 23,000 votes in 2004.

Most Californians — both at the weekend rally and in phone interviews — said they learned about the chance to campaign in Nevada through e-mail after they volunteered back home.

Marjorie Gelb, a retired municipal attorney from Oakland, filled out a volunteer form and was asked to come east to use her legal expertise in monitoring early voting places. She’s flying to Las Vegas this week on her own dime and bunking at a friend’s time share. Other Bay Area lawyers in her social circle are headed to Reno.

Brian Finifter, a 25-year-old production assistant living in North Hollywood, Calif., posted an ad on a Web site looking for people to join him in his Grand Cherokee for the road trip to Las Vegas this weekend. Within days he had three new friends to help him with gas costs and to offset carbon emissions.

He has been volunteering for Obama since the primary and jumped at the chance to cross the state line for the cause.

“Immediately it struck me as something I wanted to do,” he said. “I just moved out here from the East Coast. I drove out. I love road trips so much I’ll take any excuse I can to get on the road.”

Back on the cold sidewalks of North Las Vegas, Bibb did her part. A lot of people, it seemed, weren’t home. She left handwritten notes reminding them to vote — and giving them free autographs.

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