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Obama Staffers Begin Appearing in Virginia

Tim Craig

Paid staffers for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, have begun filtering into Virginia, according to Democratic officials.

Scott A. Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said he has met two paid Obama field organizers working on voter registration drives and other activities in Northern Virginia. The Obama campaign is also believed to be engaged in an aggressive voter-registration drive in Richmond. The campaign set a goal last month of registering 4,000 new voters in Richmond by June 13.

Some Democrats say the Obama campaign began quietly locating staffers in Virginia shortly after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries on May 6, a month before Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination.

The Obama campaign did not return calls seeking comment, and two individuals identified by others as paid Obama organizers in Northern Virginia declined to comment last week when reached on their cell phones.

With Virginia shaping up as potential battleground in the fall, Surovell said he is bracing for an unprecedented numbers of paid Democratic staffers on the-ground this summer and fall.

"We have never seen this kind of political activity in a general election cycle in Virginia, ever," Surovell said.

Besides Obama's efforts to win Virginia's 13 electoral votes, Democratic Senate candidate Mark R. Warner will also likely have considerable staff resources. There will could also be two-well-funded Democratic congressional campaigns in Northern Virginia this year.

Surovell said the "high water mark" for Virginia Democrats in terms of paid staff in Fairfax County was in 2005, when Gov. Timothy M. Kaine assigned one paid organizer in all nine of Fairfax's magisterial districts.

Kaine's strategy is widely credited for helping to drive up Democrat turnout in vote-rich Fairfax. Kaine won Fairfax by about 20-points, a margin Republican Jerry W. Kilgore was unable to overcome downstate.

"We are going to easily surpass that" this year, said Surovell, referring to Kaine's staff resources in 2005. "Having paid professionals, who get to focus on this full time, makes a huge difference."

Officials at the Republican National Committee said last week the party and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, plan to deploy additional staff resources into Virginia in the coming days.

McCain and the Virginia Republican Party opened a joint headquarters in Pentagon City last month.

By Tim Craig  |  June 8, 2008; 11:15 PM ET
Categories:  Election 2008/President , Tim Craig  
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