Residents gather for Obama

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2008

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich joined about 200 supporters Thursday to watch Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's speech on television at Centennial Hall.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Begich, who is running as a Democrat against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, joked that he was going to fire his staff for having him give a speech directly after Obama's.

"How do you follow this?" Begich asked, shortly after the crowd had laughed, clapped and cheered along with the live crowd in Denver, giving Obama's speech a standing ovation.

Begich said he was pleased by some of the goals for the country Obama had mentioned in his speech.

"In order for (Obama) to do that, we have to have a Senate with a bigger majority than it is today," Begich said, asking the crowd to help him unseat Stevens.

Begich wasn't the only pol watching the speech.

Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, said she found the speech "very inspirational." She said the turnout showed the "level of hope people have" about Obama's candidacy.

Claire Richardson, a former spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, said it was exciting to see so many people of different ages come to watch Obama's speech on TV.

Richardson said she's never heard of a similar turnout in town for such an event before.

"I have never sat with my Juneau neighbors and community members to watch (a candidate's convention speech on) TV together," Richardson said.

The Obama campaign has several paid staffers in Alaska and has opened a handful of offices around the state, including one in Juneau. Usually Alaska receives scant attention from either party's presidential campaigns.

Volunteer Miguel Rohrbacher, 16, said it was a historic achievement for a major political party to nominate a black person for president and that Obama's message of change resonated with young people.

"We've had our whole youth ... under the Bush White House, and Barack Obama offers an alternative and a big change," Rohrbacher said.

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