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Stumping for Clinton

From staff writer Mary Otto on the campaign trail:

Mary Boergers, 61, could be warm right now, wintering in California with her husband, David, a retired lawyer, spending time with their two grown children in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Instead she is standing at a Metro station in suburban Bethesda early each morning, bundled in a grey wool coat, one cold bare hand clutching her standard : a wooden stake with two Hillary Clinton yard signs attached.

With the stiff fingers of her other hand, she offers a Hillary Clinton lapel sticker to each commuter who hurries by.
"Sticker for Hillary? Sticker for Hillary?"

A woman takes one for the lapel of her camel hair coat. A man takes one for his daughter. A big man in a tweed cap growls at her "How much you getting paid for this?"

"I'm a volunteer," she says.

Boergers has a clear voice and green Irish eyes. She was raised a Catholic and grew up admiring the Kennedys and their liberal social consciousness.

She taught American History and government at Rockville High School during the 1970s. In 1981, she was appointed to a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Montgomery County, served two full terms and went on to win a seat in the state Senate. It was there, in 1992, when the presidential election rolled around, that she threw her support behind Bill Clinton.

And it was there that she saw Hillary Clinton.

"She came to Annapolis. We did a rally on the statehouse steps. She was speaking for Bill. She did one of her amazing speeches. Not a word misplaced."

Boergers was standing next to US Sen. Barbara Mikulski who was also listening carefully. She remembers Mikulski's assessment: "That's a presidential speech."

Then Boergers realized what Mikulski was getting at and the lens came into focus for her too. This woman, Hillary Clinton, was not just making a speech for her husband. This woman Hillary Clinton could be a president herself.

She has followed Clinton's career since then, and continued to be impressed by what she sees as Clinton's command of the issues and her stamina. Boergers, who herself made an unsuccessful bid in the Maryland gubernatorial primary in 1993 said she knows the special challenges female candidates face when they are compared to men.

"It's the double standard. the double bind. A woman has to be so much more substantive in what she says and yet she is perceived as less substantive."

She has seen fellow Democrats lured by Obama, but she remains unswayed. She believes her daughter Kathleen, a 33 year old lawyer, secretly voted for him in the California primary.

"He's a charismatic, remarkable person." But she adds, to make change "it takes someone who understand the system."

Boergers started mustering local support for Clinton last April. She heads a team of 1200 volunteers in Montgomery County. They have been marching in parades, attending community gatherings. Her husband gave her nine days in Iowa as a Christmas gift, and she and several other local women went out there for the caucus.

On the day of the New Hampshire primary, she staffed a phone bank in Baltimore for nine and a half hours, calling voters in that state, making sure they got out to vote. Now there is a small office in Bethesda, and platoons of volunteers waving at passing cars at Montgomery county intersections, and giving out stickers at cold Metro stations getting ready for the Tuesday primary.

Obama supporters are giving out fliers down at Friendship Heights but Boergers is convinced stickers are better.
They don't end up in a trashcan, she says. They stick.

"People wear them to work. Wear them on the Metro."

"Stickers for Hillary."

Li Tai Chang, a computer administrator headed downtown to her federal job pauses to accept one for her coat. She's 56.

"At this age, you know a woman does a lot of things," says Chang with a smile. Hillary will get her vote, she says. "It's time for a woman."

By Phyllis Jordan  |  February 11, 2008; 12:41 PM ET
 
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