More than 400 Democrats braved rainy weather Saturday morning to attend the opening of Hillary Clinton’s state headquarters.
The headquarters will be staffed by three people and led by state director Evan Tanner, a Little Rock native. Tanner said the office will focus on volunteer operations and phone-banking for Clinton and for down-ballot races. He said volunteers will be calling in evenings as well as daytime and weekends.
“We’ll make calls into persuasion voters. We’ll be trying to move folks over to her that are undecided. We’ll be mobilizing our base,” he said.
Supporters crowded under a tent and stood beneath an awning to shelter from the rain. The party said 404 signed in at the headquarters, which is in the Tanglewood Shopping Center in Little Rock. Vince Insalaco, Democratic Party of Arkansas chairman, said Clinton is leading in North Carolina and surprisingly close in South Carolina, where a Public Policy Polling poll Thursday gave Donald Trump only a 2-point lead.
“We know that here in Arkansas, we are closer than we have been in a presidential election since … 2004. We have a real shot at this, not just because Trump is who he is but because of who Hillary is,” he said.
Later, former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor echoed those thoughts, saying, “If South Carolina can be a battleground state, then Arkansas can be a battleground state.”
A Clinton campaign spokesperson reached by phone said the campaign had announced in June a 50-state strategy to have a full-time staff presence and office in every state to reach previously untouched voters and to help Democrats at all levels. She said the campaign will be hosting events and office openings. She had not heard conversations about the campaign buying ads in Arkansas.
Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb said the party on July 1 opened seven fully staffed ARVictory/Trump2016 offices supported by the party and the Trump campaign. It has had formal openings in several locations and will formally open the next one in Little Rock on Thursday. Other offices are in Conway, Van Buren, Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Hot Springs and El Dorado.
Webb said the party’s recent polling shows Trump leading Arkansas, though he would not release the numbers.
Saturday’s expected speaker, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. could not attend, but Booker did address the crowd by telephone after being introduced by former Sen. Mark Pryor.
“We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in what I call ‘a state of sedentary agitation,’ where we’re so upset about what’s going on in the world, but we don’t realize that we not only have the power but also the responsibility to do something about it,” Booker said.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, told the crowd the turnout was “proof to me that we are not sunshine Democrats. We’re the kind of Democrats who will get up every day and do whatever it takes to make sure we elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”