By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
More than 320 Barack Obama supporters packed three rooms of the Shiloh Inn & Suites for a presidential campaign rally and fundraiser Thursday.
The Friends of Obama group – led by local businessmen Dr. Lavelle Ford and Horace Grace – organized Thursday's event to educate people about the voting process and to remove any fears they might have about voting.
"I'm just excited about the enthusiasm I've seen in Killeen," Grace said.
In addition to the main rally promoting Obama for president, a session was held to explain to attendees about the Texas primary voting process, particularly about how the caucus system works.
Wanda Gunter said the session was informative and that she learned for the first time about how the state's primary-caucus system works.
"I think it's archaic," Gunter said.
Gunter was surprised to learn that the Texas primary system divides the voting by party, as opposed to allowing her to vote cross party lines depending on each election.
"We live in a world now where we should be able to choose," she said. "It limits your choice."
Gunter said the primary system represents a political divide in the country between blue and red states.
"We are not a United States of America," Gunter said. "We're divided."
Gunter said the rally was important because it informed more people about voting and was a way for people to learn how to make a difference.
"I think the rally is a good start," Gunter said. "I think we have a generation of people now who are voting who understand the need to get out there and make that difference and have that voice."
For Carolyn Terry, Obama's platform of change led her to participate in the first political event of her life.
"This is my first gathering to know what politics is all about," Terry said. "I think it's time for change."
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Hines was the guest speaker at the rally.
"He's kind of a surrogate for one of the military advisers to Senator Obama," Grace said.
During his speech, Hines emphasized Obama's support for veterans, which was a message, Pablo S. Morales, a Vietnam veteran, said he had already received.
"Veterans haven't been supported as much as they should be," Morales said. "I think he (Obama) can do more for us."
Councilwoman Claudia Brown said she was excited for the historic implications that this primary poses.
Brown said she spoke to children at Clear Creek Elementary yesterday about what it means as far as American history for the country to have a female and a black presidential candidate running in the same race.
"We have arrived in this country, so that the rights we fought for years ago have been successful," Brown said. "Even if neither one wins, it's still historic."
During Thursday's rally, Grace also organized 41 people, each to represent a Bell County Precinct.
A session was held to train them as precinct captains and their goal as captain is to get 23 people each to vote either on Feb. 29 or March 4, Grace said.
Sue Croft said she is a health care professional and volunteered to be a precinct captain to bring Obama's healthcare agenda to voters.
"I want to make sure everybody what he's for in healthcare."
Grace said the captain format is a way to spread the word about Obama to the community and to help those people get to the polls.
The event also drew local public officials. Mayor Timothy Hancock, City Manager Connie Green and Council members Otis Evans, Billy Workman and Brown attended the event along with state representative candidate Sam Murphey.
Also, 113 people signed up as campaign volunteers, Grace said.
The 320 rally attendees donated close to $6,500 to the Obama campaign, Grace said.
The smallest donation was from a 9-year-old girl who donated her $5 in lunch money.
"She was so enthused," he said.
Contact Victor O'Brien at email@example.com or call (254)501-7468