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New location in Willmar to serve as campaign office for Obama, headquarters for Kandiyohi County DFL Party

WILLMAR -- A campaign office for presidential candidate Barack Obama officially opened Monday in Willmar.

The event was noted with the arrival of a colorful RV that has been traveling across Midwestern states promoting Obama's "campaign for change." The RV, along with state DFL leaders, will be going to 24 Minnesota communities this week.

Willmar is one of 13 Minnesota cities where Obama has opened an office. Two Obama staffers will be working from the office to reach rural voters in the region.

"We're working to be everywhere," said Jeff Blodgett, Minnesota DFL chairman, who was traveling with the campaign. "We're spreading out statewide."

Willmar's growing population and status as a regional center makes it a good place for the Obama campaign to staff an office, Blodgett said.

"We're really excited to have a big presence out here in Willmar and stretching west and south." Blodgett called Minnesota a "must- win state" for the Democrats and requires Democrats to run the campaign in a "must-win way."

Blodgett said he's hoping the office, located at 1807 South First Street (the former ASI pet shop) will serve as a meeting place to energize loyal DFL'ers.

"We want to tap into that support," he said, encouraging the party faithful to "leave no stone unturned and leave no voter untalked to."

"The stakes are high," said Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud. Clark, who is traveling with the campaign, added the presidential election presents opportunities for moving "our great country forward."

Blodgett said he's hopeful the presence of a presidential office in Willmar will attract new people to the Obama campaign, which he said is focusing on "kitchen table economics" and how the tough economy is effecting everyday people.

There's an "opening and an opportunity" to win over rural voters once they see the difference between Obama, who voted for the farm bill, and Republican candidate John McCain, who voted against it, Blodgett said.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, told the group gathered in the office he was "amazed" that Republicans adopted a platform last week during their national convention in St. Paul that would eliminate mandates for bio-fuels.

He said Minnesota, as well as other farm states, would not have an ethanol industry without those mandates and financial supports.

Juhnke, chairman of the House agriculture, economics and veterans affairs finance committee, called Obama the "farmer-friendly" candidate.

"We need to get that message out," he said, reminding party members that the "F" in DFL stands for farmer.

The office will also serve as headquarters for the Kandiyohi County DFL Party.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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