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Obama camp opens Forsyth County office
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Paul Moss, a volunteer for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, mans the phones on a recent night at the candidate's Forsyth County office. - photo by Jennifer Sami

A Democrat in Forsyth County?

In a presidential election where Georgia may be up for grabs, anything seems possible.

At least, that's the hope of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, which recently opened a local office.

With nearly 90 percent of registered Forsyth County voters choosing a Republican ballot in the July primary election, setting up camp in a traditionally conservative stronghold may seem like a long shot.

"Not this campaign. Not this candidate," said Carolyn Adelmann, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. "We have a field operation that stretches to every corner in this state, and we're not going to ignore areas that have traditionally not been with Democrats before."

Adelmann said having an office in Forsyth, as well as other areas of the state, provides residents with a local venue, a place where they can learn more about Obama and find out how they can get involved in his campaign against presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

In addition to the local office, the campaign has opened 10 other Obama locations, including one in Gainesville, with plans to add more each week, Adelmann said.

Obama, who has built his campaign around a message of change, may not win Forsyth's vote in November, but volunteer Jeff Jackness thinks the margin will be closer.

 "When they get to their [precinct], I think a lot more people are going to pull his lever than people realize," he said. "I would not be surprised to see it maybe even doubling the percentage from the past."

Jackness and his wife, Arlene, spent a few hours Wednesday night at the Cumming office, where they have volunteered for the last month.

While he said it was supposed to be just a few hours a week, Jackness has spent nearly every day making calls, ringing doorbells and registering new voters.

"The phone calls, the door knocking, it's not nearly as negative as people would perceive," he said. "There are a lot of people out there that I think are closet Obama supporters.

"I think in this county they're afraid to admit it. People need to know it's OK to support this guy in this county."

Though he was at first a Bill Richardson supporter, Jackness said he began listening to Obama speak and threw his support behind the Illinois senator before the July 15 primary.

He has donated money to the campaign, but said instead of "just voting or writing a check, spending time is probably the most important thing you can give."

"I thought it was time to step up to the plate and do my part," he said.

Living in a primarily Republican county, Jackness has taken flack for his political views.

"It doesn't bother me anymore because it's too important," he said. "It is really an important election."

It is volunteer Mary Schechter's first foray into politics, but she said she couldn't help but support someone she believes in so strongly.

"I've been a big fan of Barack's since 2004," she said.

"I just feel he's the perfect person to lead us at this time and moment. He's a changer. He will cross the aisles and unite us together, and I feel we really need to be united at this time."

Schechter and Jackness were part of a group of about 10 volunteers manning phone lines Wednesday night.

As part of their phone duties, volunteers offer advice and information on how to learn more about Obama's platform.

Despite the wealth of campaign materials in the office, Jackness didn't need much help pitching his candidate.

"I believe in what he's saying," he said. "I feel really good when he speaks.

"I really feel that what he's saying is coming from the heart, and that for the first time in a long time, he may be a candidate that really cares about the people."