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Group opens pro-Obama office in downtown Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dissatisfied with West Virginia Democratic leaders' apparent lack of support for the president, a local group opened a pro-Obama office in downtown Charleston Saturday morning.

WV Forward, a political action committee, is headquartered at 615 Lee Street.

"We felt strongly that there needed to be a pro-Obama effort in this area," Hazel Palmer, a member of the PAC's steering committee, said.

Sixteen volunteers and four members of the steering committee were on board to work in the office Saturday. They were calling previous Obama volunteers to ask them to help this year, register voters, call people to remind them of deadlines for voters registration and encourage them to vote for the president in the November election, Palmer said.

WV Forward is not associated with the Democratic Party in West Virginia.

Some democrat leaders in the state have distanced themselves from President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in the state. In West Virginia's May democratic primary, federal inmate Keith Judd won 40 percent of the vote against Obama. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Joe Rahall all skipped the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. last week.

Tomblin and Manchin have not said whether or not they will vote for Obama in the November election. Tomblin's camp has said he opposes the president's so-called "war on coal."

Palmer says those leaders are out of touch with West Virginians. In traveling the state, she said, she's come across many who are supportive of the president. West Virginians are eager to show their support, she said.

"They're on board," she said.

As someone who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is on Social Security and Medicare, Palmer said she supports Obama.

"His Affordable Care Act is critically important to me," she said. Palmer said she saves $7,000 a year on Medicare as opposed to being on private insurance.

"[That's] partially because the Affordable Care Act is closing the donut hole," she said.

Palmer also touts Obama's signing of the Equal Pay Act, ending the war in Iraq and bailing out the automotive industry as reasons for her support.

"I don't think West Virginians realize and recognize how much Obama's done to support them," she said.

As for the "war on coal," Palmer said the president has helped clean up water and air, which positively affects every West Virginian.

WV Forward volunteer Susan Morgan is a local nurse and a nursing instructor for a local community and technical college.

"I'm ... really concerned about the threat of the Republican takeover of government," Morgan said. "I think everyone I know would be harmed by that."

Morgan's biggest concern, she said, is keeping Obama's Affordable Care Act, which Republican candidate Mitt Romney promised to repeal if he's elected.

The law isn't perfect and not all in the medical community support it, she said, but it's the best we've got, she said.

Of Morgan's five children, three don't have insurance despite working full-time jobs. She supports Obama because of his stance on gay marriage, too, she said.

"I have a gay son who I think needs the right to marry his boyfriend," Morgan said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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