Obama Courts Latinos in Silver Spring
Illinois Sen Barack Obama (D) made an unexpected stop this afternoon in Silver Spring, at Mayorga Coffee Roasters, a Latino-owned shop. The event had not been announced publicly and was intended to be a chance for an intimate meeting between the presidential candidate and local Latino business owners and elected officials.
When he arrived, he was surrounded by such a crush of cameras and reporters that few got a chance for long talks. Still, Obama walked around the store, greeting supporters and asking children for their names. Eight-year old Elizabeth Cove and her brother Jack, 12, got a chance to talk to the candidate, then ran back to their mother literally hugging and squealing with delight. "It was the best experience!" Elizabeth Cove said.
The coffee shop's owner Martin Mayorga accompanied Obama to the counter, where he bought a few cups for staffers. Afterward, Mayorga said he and Obama discussed the importance of reaching out to immigrant voters.
"What we have to talk about is that the word immigrant is not a bad word," said Mayorga, 34, who immigrated from Nicaragua in 1991 and started his local chain of coffee shops with a $1,000 investment.
"To me, there's a lot of pride today," he said of Obama's decision to visit his store.
Obama did interviews with Spanish language television stations and talked about the importance of collecting votes from diverse communities.
"We're going to court every vote," he said. "We want the black vote, the Hispanic vote, the white vote, the young, the old. You name it, we want it."
He said Latinos should support him because of efforts on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform and his work to reduce drop-out rates and close the achievement gap in schools.
"Across the board, as a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer, and as a legislator, I have fought on behalf of peopel who need help and that's what the Latino comunity needs," he said.
Local leaders said his visit to the small shop, wedged between rallies that drew thousands, was a sign he is taking the Latino vote seriously.
"He appreciates the community and he's listening to the community," said Esther Garcia, 45, a member of the DC Democratic State Committee. Garcia said she has ties to Texas politics from years living in the state and plans to work for Obama there next.
Meanwhile, other frequent patrons stopped in to Mayorga as usual -- and found Obama.
"I had no idea! I just stopped in for a cup of coffee," said Joe Davidson, 65, of Silver Spring. Davidson said he is supporting Obama and it was a thrill to see him up close. "Not since JFK have I felt this way."
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