February 16, 2008

VIDEO: Hillary at the Brat Stop

Hillary Clinton visits the Brat Stop

Hillary's visit from the cheap seats

As an independent reporter, I'm learning that it's a lot more interesting (and fun) to cover events from the crowd than press row. There's nothing wrong with dedicated media entrances, unobstructed views and access to the candidates. But you lose something by accepting access from the officials you're covering to separate from the readers you're supposedly serving. Anyway, here was the view from the cheap seats at Hillary's visit at the Brat Stop (or as she called it, the Brat Shop):

Here's the line outside of the stop 90 minutes before Hillary is scheduled to speak. Yup, there's no line. It was somewhat concerning because Obama's line in Racine wrapped around the entire block. Then again, Obama's stop featured broken metal detectors that left us standing in brutal cold for over an hour. With Hillary, we walked straight in ... no metal detectors, though, which was weird.
It got crowded fast. So fast we got stuck in the balcony of the Brat Stop even though we were among the early arrivals. Organizers and volunteers seemed lost and couldn't even tell us where Hillary was going to speak. Most people figured she'd be on the stage, but nope, she was off to the side. When we tried to get back downstairs, the campaign kept us upstairs. While we waited, an older woman collapsed. After several calls for 9-1-1, a police officer arrived. The woman was OK, and I think she stayed to watch the speech.

While we waited, a bartender used a pool cue and her shoelaces to redirect a closed circuit camera while standing on a chair stacked on a table. The MacGyver-esque move was successful ...
Here was our clearest view of Sen. Clinton (it really was clear, the photo is just blurry).

Here was our view of where Hillary was speaking.

Hillary! (We handed our camera off for some closer shots).

One more of the former First Lady ...

Cool shot through the chandelier.

People standing on pool tables to catch a glimpse of Hillary. This sums up the event well.

RacinePost's own Pete Selkowe (second photographer from the left) using a press pass at the event. Yeah, we got credentials.

The crowd packed in for autographs and handshakes after Hillary's speech. We couldn't get real close, but we know someone who jumped a railing and got her autograph on a coffee card. Nice work!

This unfocused, dark photo was taken with camera overhead and random clicks. That's Hillary in the middle.

10 Things to Know About Hillary's Visit to the Brat Stop

My wife and I headed out to see Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech at the Brat Stop in Kenosha Saturday afternoon. Here's what we saw:

1. What a terrible place for a campaign stop. No offense to the Brat Stop, but it was a lousy venue to hear a politician. '80s hair cover bands? Yes. Hillary Clinton? No. We blame the organizers. We got there 90 minutes early and were ushered to the balcony with no instructions (likely because no one knew what was going on). We made an attempt to get back down to the floor, but were blocked upstairs. The longer we waited, the clearer it became we weren't going to be able to see her - at least not an unobstructed view, anyway. We stuck it out and got to see a bartender realign a closed circuit video camera using her shoelaces and a chair stacked on top of a table. It worked, and Hillary was visible on the bar's TVs. Nice work, bartender! Not a good start, though, and perfectly representative of the planning that went into this stop.

2. All that said, Hillary charmed us. After seeing her talk, I believe her campaign's complaints about unfair negative coverage. She's intelligent, warm, highly qualified, funny (wickedly so, at times), populist and profoundly anti-Bush. In short, she's a remarkably strong candidate. If she would have run four years ago, she would have stomped John Kerry and Bush II. This time she's got a tough primary against Obama, but either candidate will attract massive support.

3. All said, Hillary's speech was stronger than Obama's in Racine this week. She talked specifics, covered a broader range of topics and made stronger points than Obama. My wife put it well: Obama is inspiring, while Hillary comes across as very, very intelligent.

4. Hillary swayed us. We both were big Obama supporters after Wednesday, but now I'm undecided and my wife is leaning toward Hillary. We'd be happy with either of them, but Hillary seems to back up her claim that she'll be ready to run the country on Day 1. I hate to say this about Obama, but really, the last thing we need is another guy in the White House everyone wants to hang out with, but can't actually do the job.

5. I loved how Hillary slammed Bush throughout her speech. For example, she vowed to appoint people to government jobs who are actually competent to do the job. The obvious example was Bush's head of FEMA who had never actually managed an emergency. She also whacked him for No Child Left Behind, saying: "We shouldn't view our children as little test-takers."

6. She was creative. One example she gave was encouraging the development of solar power in the U.S. Germany took a similar approach and created thousands of jobs while cutting the country's dependence on foreign oil. Hillary said she'd like to start a similar program. She also touted tax credits for college tuition (like Obama), but added that she wanted grandparents to pass along college tax credits to their grandchildren.

7. Like Obama, she touted the middle class and vowed to tax the wealthiest 1 percent of the country. "We've had a president for the wealthy, I think it's time to have a president for everyone else." Obama offered a similar line, and both got big cheers from the crowd. The Bush tax cuts went too far, and both Democrats vowed to bring them back into line. "We're going to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class," she said.

8. The national trends seem correct. While Obama drew a younger, more diverse crowd, Hillary drew an older, whiter crowd dominated by women. The question for Tuesday's primary will be whether Obama can turn out the youth and minority vote to overcome Hillary's obvious edge among women voters.

9. Hillary's voice was hoarse, but she rallied the crowd. She was sharper than Obama, making jokes about Dick Cheney shooting his hunting partner and talking about Bush running "scams" on the American people. "You've got to laugh to keep from crying," she said. She also had better swag for the crowd. Everyone got stickers, plus they were handing out bumper stickers and Hillary stuck around to sign autographs and shake hands with dozens of people.

10. Hillary handled the questions from the audience better than Obama. Not only did her answers come naturally, they were heart-felt. When a mother and her daughter explained how they were losing their home, Hillary comforted them and was ready with an answer: She proposed a moratorium on housing foreclosures in response to housing woes across the country. One news source is reporting that Hillary cried at the question. It was definitely an emotional moment. If she shed a tear, she wasn't alone and she came back with a strong answer.

A few more comments:

* The JT is estimating the crowd at 1,400 to 1,500 people. I'm not sure where they pulled that number from (it's unsourced), but I'd put the crowd more in the 1,000 range. It was comparable to Obama's crowd in Racine, without the lines. For Obama, we waited outside for 90 minutes. For Hillary's speech, we waited inside for 90 minutes (after walking right in the door).

* There were no metal detectors at Hillary's visit. Obama made everyone wait outside an extra hour because the Secret Service's detectors broke down. Aside from a few cops walking around, it felt like Hillary had no crowd security. There were definitely Secret Service agents there, but no one checked our coats or bags.

* Aside from the smoke, blocked views and general confusion, the one nice thing about the Brat Stop was having a bar and food available. We ate lunch while we waited and a bunch of people were drinking while waiting for Hillary to show up. That didn't hurt the crowd's spirts.

PROPERTY TRANSFERS: Aurora clinic quadruples in value in six days

The Aurora Health Center at 818 Forest Lane in Waterford recently sold for $3 million on Jan. 22. The clinic includes family practice, pediatrics and OB/GYN doctors.

If this sounds familiar, it's because the same clinic sold for $892,677 on Jan. 16. We can't even begin to explain how a medical clinic sells for nearly three times its asking prices in six days. If anyone knows how this is possible, RacinePost would like to get in on that action.

The office was assessed at $3.12 million last year and owned by a subsidiary of the Grubb & Ellis Company based in Texas.

'Commendable' or 'Inexcusable'? You be the judge.

Actually, we can't figure it out either. All we know is that Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, is on one side of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act morass and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, is on the other. Ryan said the bill updating FISA, ("to modernize and streamline the provisions of that Act, and for other purposes" as the Senate summary explains it.), "would provide the American intelligence community the tools and flexibility needed to quickly respond to terrorist threats."

To make matters even more confusing, it's also called the Protect America Act. Who could be against that?

We tried to keep up with the Senate's machinations on FISA, especially as Sen. Feingold tried mightily in recent weeks to get his colleagues to reign in government spying on Americans, and to eliminate retroactive immunity for telecom companies that have already helped the government spy on us, with or without warrants.

Feingold was unsuccessful with his amendments, as we already reported -- HERE, and HERE -- but the Senate passed FISA anyway. When the bill came up for final passage Tuesday, Feingold voted 'nay,' while Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, voted 'aye.' Neither Sens. Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama voted -- presumably because they were out campaigning for president rather than unable to decide one way or another. In any case, the Senate passed FISA, 68-29. Ryan, away from the fray in the House, called the bill "bi-partisan," but 28 of those 29 'nay' votes came from Democrats and the 29th from the Senate's lone independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. (Twenty of the 'aye' votes were from Democrats.) In any case, the bill went to the House.

That's when the fun began. House leadership -- Democrats, doncha know -- refused to allow a vote on the bill. Republicans stalked out of the House in protest. What all that sturm and drang comes down to is this: the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act remains in force, and all the changes, "modernizing" and "streamlining" crafted by the Senate disappear into the ether. Should we be happy or sad about this?

Well it depends upon whom you listen to. Feingold says it's "commendable" that House leadership refused to consider the bill. Ryan says it's "inexcusable."

Here's what they each had to say, after the break:

Sen. Russ Feingold: The bill is 'deeply flawed'

“Congress should pass a surveillance bill that gives the intelligence community the tools it needs to go after suspected terrorists without trampling on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. Unfortunately, the President is more interested in trying to scare the American people and score political points than he is in working with Congress to fix FISA. House Democrats should be commended for standing up to the President and refusing to ram through the deeply flawed bill that the Senate passed.

“The President cannot be taken seriously when he argues that letting the PAA expire or blocking retroactive immunity will render the government unable to gather information about terrorists. Existing orders issued under the PAA will remain in place for up to a year, and new wiretaps can be initiated with a FISA warrant. And I have no doubt that telecom companies will continue to cooperate with legal government requests as they did for 30 years before the administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. While many Democrats worked to fix the law before it expired, it is the President who was willing to let it expire if it didn’t include a bail-out of the telecom companies. It is unfortunate that the President’s brinksmanship has brought us to this point, but make no mistake - critical foreign intelligence surveillance will continue even if the PAA expires.”

Rep. Paul Ryan: This could have 'disastrous consequences'

“I am extremely disappointed that the House Democratic leadership has chosen to allow the Protect America Act to expire rather than take the necessary steps to safeguard America. This legislation offers a badly needed modernization of FISA, and without it, the ability of our intelligence community to gather information will be significantly weakened. It is an inexcusable choice that could have disastrous consequences. By refusing to allow a vote, Speaker Pelosi is ignoring the will of Congress. It seems plain to me that, at the very least, our national security is far too important to allow politics to circumvent good policy.

“Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bipartisan update to FISA that contains critical tools that protect our national security and help keep us safe at home. I believe that my colleagues in the House are capable of the same spirit of cooperation. It is absolutely essential that we update FISA for the long-term because, plain and simple, the jihadists will not rest. We must utilize each tool at our disposal to combat them at every turn, and match their resolve with equal measure.”

February 15, 2008

Hillary will be in Racine Saturday

Florida Rep. Corrine Brown and Julie Zelnick

Update: Racine ... Kenosha ... what's the difference? BIG difference!!! Hillary Clinton now appears to have planned a stop in Kenosha on Saturday, rather than Racine. She'll be at the Brat Stop about 2:30. The address is 12304 75th St.; it's one block west of I-94.

Clinton's website says: "Join Hillary at the Brat Stop in Kenosha! Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the event will begin at 3 p.m." It is scheduled to end by 5 p.m.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, will be in Racine Saturday.

The Democratic presidential candidate's little room-and-a-half headquarters in the Union Hall, 1840 Sycamore Ave. (across the corridor from the similarly-sized Obama HQ -- that must be fun!) was a beehive of activity this morning, getting ready for the visit, which was put on the senator's schedule late last night.

Details are still sketchy. In fact, all we -- all they -- know is that it will be a mid-afternoon event. Exact time and place still to be determined, according to Julie Zelnick, who was running the office this morning. Hillary is scheduled to speak at the state Democratic Party's annual Founder's Day dinner at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Barack Obama has also been invited to speak.

Hillary's camp urged Obama to debate Wednesday

It's doubtful Hillary's campaign will run into the same problems with Racine's black community that Barack Obama's had, if the whirlwind Congresswoman who blew in while I was there has anything to say about it.

Corrine Brown, D-FL, 3rd District, who represents Jacksonville and Orlando, has been in Wisconsin for two days, her first visit to the state. "It's beautiful," she said, "but very cold. It was 80 when I left Florida. But the people are warm!"

Brown, a 5-ft. fireball, said, "I was with the President yesterday" -- translation, with Bill Clinton. She noted, "The Constitution will give us a change from Bush, but what we need is experienced change."

"A lot of people talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk the way Hillary does. From Day One she'll be on it," Brown said, noting Hillary's work with healthcare, Head Start and other programs.

Brown said, "I'm African-American." (I responded, "I noticed.") In fact, she was the first African-American elected to Congress from Florida, first winning election in 1992. "I know for a fact that the first two years you're figuring it out, finding where the bathrooms are. It takes experience to get anything done!"

"Hillary has insight into the problems -- and she has solutions," Brown said.

Hat tip to Blue Racine.

February 14, 2008

Racine's primary ballot a trip down memory lane


How quickly we forget. Racine's Primary Election Ballot -- the whole thing is available online HERE -- is a trip down memory lane.

I mean: Eight Republican candidates, and eight Democratic candidates? How lucky are we, that all those early-decision states with primaries, caucuses and smoke-filled back rooms have narrowed the list for us. Duncan Hunter? I vaguely remember the name, a Congressman from somewhere, but that's about it... Tom Tancredo? Can't place the face. Was he for or against evolution?

Still, if they're on our ballot, I guess we can still pull the lever (metaphorically speaking) as a protest at the very least, for any one of the 16.

We don't have to accept the conventional wisdom that it's all over except for coronation at the party conventions. Mitt Romney threw his delegates to John McCain? That must've been hard (for both of them, if you saw the body language evident in yesterday's Boston press conference.) Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee is off giving a paid speech. I don't begrudge him the money; his point about being unemployed while all his opponents are still on the public payroll -- our tax dollars at work? -- is a good one. But while Southeast Wisconsin is dealing with snow and potential 20-below temperatures he'll be on Grand Cayman Island. The temperature there -- you could look it up; I just did -- is 79 degrees as I write this. That goes down hard! I wonder if he'll wear Bermuda shorts? Bicycle around the island in sandals?

And on the Democratic side: So what if Hillary Clinton just "reorganized" her campaign staff, and Barack Obama won't debate; we've got six other choices on that side of the ballot, too.

Am I really the only voter wishing for more? Too late! It is what it is. But look on the bright side: In three days -- for us, anyway -- it'll all be over. Try to endure; soon they'll all go home.

City clears officers, posts arrest video online

UPDATE: 02/18/08: The City took the video down from its website today... We're attempting to find out why.

02/19/08: Here's the response we received from Sgt. Bernie Kupper, public information officer of the Racine Police Department:
The Chief (Kurt Wahlen) advised me yesterday morning that he had called the city webmaster to have it removed. The Chief is the one who requested that I have it placed on the website in the first place, and felt that he had the right to make the call as to how long it played out. I believe he felt that there had been adequate time for those with a sincere interest in reviewing it, to have seen it. I would also speculate that the Chief felt it wasn’t in the best interest of the community to continue to present that imagery, when at the same time, he is working hard to convince the NAACP and the community that it is time to move on.
The city has cleared the officers involved in the Jan. 22 arrest of Bilal Gilleylen, rejecting charges of excessive use of force brought by members of the community. The city also has released video of the arrest, and posted it on the City of Racine's website, HERE.

Gilleylen has been charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, attempting to disarm a peace officer and resisting an officer.

The press release from the Racine Police Department, issued by Sgt. Bernard Kupper, public information officer, said the department conducted a thorough internal review, interviewing all bystanders who came forward, and also gave the squad car's video tape an "objective review" by Robert Willis of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

The statement's key paragraph says:
("The) investigation indicates that Officers Stillman, Thillemann, and Principe acted within the standards of training prescribed by the State of Wisconsin, as well as within Department policy concerning the use of force."
The video shows Gilleylen's car being pulled over on a dark night, at 8:15 p.m. It pulls to the right side of the snowy road, where it sits, engine running, for about two minutes. The squad car is behind it, with its lights flashing. A few people can be seen, barely, in the dark walking across the street to the left. Finally, at the 2:36 minute mark of the 4:33 minute video, two officers approach from the rear, one on each side of the car.

The officer at the driver's side talks to the driver (although no sound can be heard on the video). Movement can be seen inside the car. Then the second officer joins the first at the driver's side. Up to this point, the door has not been opened. Finally, at 3:08 of the video, the driver's door opens.

The struggle begins at 3:17, and both officers attempt to pull the driver out of the car. He is pulled out and falls to his knees, and briefly against his car, at 3:42. A third officer appears and the struggle continues on camera for about 15 seconds; at least one officer is seen striking the struggling driver. At 3:55 of the tape, the struggle goes out of view of the squad car camera, about 10 feet into the roadway but lit by the headlights of a squad car on the other side of the street. In about 30 seconds it's over; one officer comes back into the frame, and uses his portable radio.

The complete statement is as follows:

On January 22, 2008, officers initiated a traffic stop in the area of Hamilton and Summit at approximately 8:15PM. Shortly after the stop, officers were in a confrontation with the operator of the vehicle. That operator was later identified as Bilal Gilleylen. During the investigative portion of the stop, Mr. Gilleylen refused to comply with officers’ requests to show his hands.

Mr. Gilleylen did eventually present his drivers license and a plastic baggie from his pocket. Since the stop was made in a high crime area, and the plastic baggie was indicative of drugs, a request was made to Mr. Gilleylen to exit the vehicle. Mr. Gilleylen initially appeared to comply but prior to completely exiting the vehicle, he dove back into the vehicle towards the center console.

As a result of those actions, officers fearing for their safety, attempted to gain hands-on control of Mr. Gilleylen and forcibly remove him from the vehicle. At that point, Mr. Gilleylen aggressively resisted and it took all three officers to remove him from the vehicle. Mr. Gilleylen continued his aggressiveness towards the officers and refused to submit to their commands to go to the ground. At one point, Mr. Gilleylen began reaching for the gunbelt of one of the officers in an attempt to disarm him.

Officers reacted by applying stunning techniques that include both hand strikes and kicks, in an attempt to gain compliance. Eventually officers were able to get Mr. Gilleylen to the ground. He was handcuffed and transported to Wheaton Franciscan St Marys for treatment of a laceration to the head.

This whole incident took a period of time of less than 2 ½ minutes from the approach by officers to the vehicle, to the handcuffing being complete with Mr. Gilleylen under control. Within minutes after the incident was resolved, persons complained to the media about the actions of officers and concerns were made about the potential excessive use of force.

During interviews by the media with alleged witnesses and bystanders, claims were made that Mr. Gilleylen was doused with a bowl of blue liquid, as well as having been tazed while in the vehicle. It was also alleged that he was then handcuffed and beaten while being dragged from the car and across the roadway.

The Racine Police Department has completed a preliminary evaluation into the Use of Force as applied to Bilal Gilleylen on January 22, 2008.

The Department conducted interviews with all of the individuals that came forward as potential witnesses. During this department review, audio tapes of radio transmissions, video footage from all of the responding squads, as well as recorded media footage, were all examined.

Throughout the course of the internal review, there were disparities between alleged witness statements and the video footage from Officer Stillman’s vehicle. Video footage does not support any of the allegations to include the use of an unknown bowl of liquid, the beating that allegedly took anywhere from 10 minutes up to 1 hour, nor the tazing and handcuffing in the vehicle and subsequent beating while cuffed.

In addition to the internal review, the department contracted with Mr. Robert Willis of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to perform an objective review of the use of force.

Mr. Willis’ investigation indicates that Officers Stillman, Thillemann, and Principe acted within the standards of training prescribed by the State of Wisconsin, as well as within Department policy concerning the use of force.

At this time, video footage from the incident has been released to the public via the City of Racine Public website.

NOTE: The video still above has been slightly enhanced for clarity by RacinePost.com. The video itself, however, is exactly as released by the Racine Police Department.

VIDEO: Obama's speech in Racine, Wis.

WEEKEND ELECTIONS? Kohl proposes voting reform

As the 2008 national elections approach, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, unveiled legislation to encourage greater participation in Presidential and Congressional elections by moving the polling date to the first weekend of November, instead of the first Tuesday of that month.

"The serious business of our democracy relies on the participation not of the few, but of the many eligible voters," Kohl said. "Holding elections on the first Tuesday of November makes it difficult, even impossible, for many Americans with jobs and family to exercise their fundamental right to vote. We should do what is in our power to make this process easier, to encourage more people to make their voice heard in Washington. Holding elections over the weekend rather than a work day will make it significantly easier for millions of Americans to vote.

"By enacting my legislation, we ensure fairer, more open and more credible elections that allow more Americans to participate in their inherent right to choose their representatives and leaders."

Sen. Kohl’s legislation, The Weekend Voting Act, if enacted into law, would mandate national polls to be open from 10 a.m. (Eastern Time) Saturday to 6 p.m. (ET) Sunday in the 48 contiguous states. Election officials would be permitted to close polls during the overnight hours if they determine it would be inefficient to keep them open.

By providing registered voters with an alternative to casting their ballots in just one day, The Weekend Voting Act expands on election reforms enacted in 2002 with the passage of The Help America Vote Act, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Kohl. The Help America Vote Act established minimum standards for states in the administration of federal elections and in providing funds to replace outdated voting systems and improve election administration.

The Weekend Vote Act would also build on efforts to increase voter participation by providing absentee ballots and early voting. As it stands now, 28 states, including Wisconsin, now permit registered voters to vote by absentee ballot. Thirty-one states permit in-person early voting at election offices or at other approved locations. Sen. Kohl first introduced this legislation in 1997. In 2001, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform recommended that the date of federal elections be moved to a non-working national holiday.

The tradition of holding federal elections on the first Tuesday of November began in the mid-19th century. Tuesday was selected because of its comparative convenience because it was a designated "court day" and the day in which landowners would typically be in town to conduct business. In today’s America, 60 percent of all households have two working adults. Since most polls are open only 12 hours (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) voters only have one or two hours to vote. As seen in the 2004 election and in recent primaries, long lines in many polling places kept voters waiting longer than one or two hours.

Sen. Kohl added, "If we are to grant all Americans an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process, and to elect our representatives in the great democracy, then we must be willing to reexamine all aspects of voting in America. Given the stakes – the integrity of future elections and full participation of as many Americans as possible – I hope my colleagues in Congress recognize this legislation to hold elections on the weekend rather than a work day as a common sense proposal whose time has come."

Obama's visit without a press pass

Here are photos from the 90+ minute wait most people had outside of Memorial Hall in the freezing cold before Sen. Barack Obama's speech on Wednesday. While waiting, one woman discovered the exhaust from the news vans gave off heat. Yup, it was that cold ... people were warming up with noxious fumes.

The mob waits patiently outside the front door of Memorial Hall. Broken metal detectors forced people to stay out in the cold at least an hour longer than originally planned.

RacinePost broke the news Monday about Obama's visit to Racine. We were several hours ahead of anyone else, who waited for the campaign to post a notice on its website. Our secret? We called the Civic Centre and asked if Obama was coming. Apparently, we just had to drive past Memorial Hall.

Damian Evans, of Racine, came prepared. He brought a copy of Obama's, "The Audacity of Hope" to read while waiting in line. Mostly he kept his hands stuffed in his pockets, though.

A woman collapsed while waiting in line. A police officer was nearby when it happened, and an ambulance was called to the scene. We never heard an update on her condition.

The line wrapped aroung Memorial Hall. We saw most people in line make it inside, but ...

it was standing room only for most of the late-comers.

The reason we waited.

Faces in the camera viewfinder

The national press finds a face it likes...
(and the woman in the center snaps right back)

A sea of cameras in the audience

County Board member Ken Lumpkin

Racine Alderman Q.A. Shakoor makes the introductions

Jeff Neubauer, left, former state party chair, raised $250,000

Volunteer Kelly Gallaher, left

Eagle-eyed Secret Service agent

Rob Weber, Racine City Attorney, is on vacation, but when he returns he'll find the picture from his office has been autographed by both Gov. Jim Doyle and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, thanks to Mayor Gary Becker.

More Obama Rally photos HERE.

Local blacks were included in event

After all the talk leading up to Sen. Barack Obama's visit, local black leaders were included in Obama's visit.

Gloria Rogers was on stage in her bright yellow shirt. Jameel Ghuari asked the senator a question. Nola Starling-Ratliff shook Obama's hand after the talk. Local NAACP President Beverly Hicks got a mention in Obama's speech. Dozens of other minorities were up and around the stage. Even Ken Lumpkin was there, taking pictures for the Insider News.

It's also worth noting that Racine Mayor Gary Becker was at the event - and he was volunteering. The mayor was working hard before Obama's speech to get people into place, coordinate volunteers and generally be available to help pull the event together. He certainly didn't swoop in at the last moment and grab that chair in the front row.

A lot of that came together early Wednesday morning when Obama's national campaign got involved with the visit. But even after the seats on the stage were handed out, there's there was a diverse crowd at the event.

Obama is doing something few other candidates can do. He's getting people of different races excited about a single candidate.

10 things to know about Obama in Racine

1. A majority of the crowd waited over 90 minutes in the freezing cold to see Obama. The line wrapped around Memorial Hall and didn't start moving until 4 p.m. - 45 minutes after the advertised time for doors open. The reason? The metal detectors at the front doors broke down. Homeland Security had to recalibrate the machines, and that left hundreds of people with numb feet and frozen ears. "I'm voting for Hillary," one woman shouted after standing outside for an hour. But I only saw one person leave, and that was a woman with two small children.

2. Before his talk, Obama recorded a commercial at Gateway Technical College. It was all hush, hush, but he was on the fourth floor of the Racine campus' Technical Building in the nursing area for the recording. Look for Racine on TV soon! Obama also met with two dozen Gateway staff and students before the event.

3. The biggest moment in terms of the ongoing campaign was Obama attacking Sen. John McCain. We saw a glimpse of his early strategy: Tie McCain to Bush on the war and taxes, while striking a populist stance for change. Racine was one of the first times Obama has specifically attacked McCain on the campaign trail.

4. Some people were disappointed by his speech. Afterward, they had a sense Obama didn't bring his best performance to Racine, that he was flat. Maybe so, but the crowd was definitely into the talk. The disappointment is likely from the high expectations Obama is carrying around these days. People are looking for a Dr. King, not realizing the grind of campaigning day in and day out. I thought Obama held up well through the speech, and excelled while taking questions. Even silly moments, like Diana Garcia giving him a Horlick T-shirt, were revealing. Obama could take a joke while remaining in control of the room.

5. He's possibly the coolest guy to ever run for president. People said that about Bill Clinton, but Obama oozes charisma. The way he hopped on stage, gave Gov. Jim Doyle a reverse handshake and clapped along with the crowd was enough to show he's a different breed of politician. Admittedly, calling him "cool" isn't the greatest insight. But the word sticks in my head after the Obama visit. He's definitely got something.

6. He's a real Democrat. After all of the posturing in the Democratic primary, I was interested to hear something about his policies. He's definitely a left-leaning politician who stands in stark contrast to Republicans. After four straight elections of everyone running to the middle, Obama offers something different than McCain. It's part of his early success: he says change, and then actually offers ideas that would bring about change.

7. The biggest cheer of the speech came when Obama noted that people were excited about the election because President Bush won't be on the ballot. The place erupted.

8. This is a strong line: "When the CEOs make more in 10 minutes than the average worker makes in a year, and it's the CEOs who get the tax breaks, there's something wrong." Here's another: "If you work hard in this country, you should not be poor."

9. Obama is aiming his campaign at the middle class. He openly talked against rich, and offered several ideas that would cut people out who make too much money. What's amazing is he's offering those ideas while still raising more money than any candidate in U.S. history. Odd that you don't have to pander to the wealthy to run a successful campaign.

10. Obama said he'd end the Iraq War in 2009. "I don't want to just end the war, I want to end the mindset that got us into war," he said.

February 13, 2008

Our Obama Rally Photo Album

Sign hung in Memorial Hall said it all.

Applause came frequently during the speech.

Mayor Gary Becker, Rep. Cory Mason, Melvin Hargrove.

A gift from Diana Garcia: 'My son made me do this...'

'I don't have a question, I just want a hug,' she said ...

A single mother with questions about education.

Dressed for the event.

The mayor with his souvenirs.

Sending a video to the folks at home...

More Obama Rally photos HERE.