Barack Obama won over Ahwatukee Foothills resident Brad Smith back in 2004, when the man who later became president was first thrust into the national spotlight while giving the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
"I felt like he was talking directly to me," said Smith, 39. "I said to myself, ‘If he ever runs for president, I will volunteer on that campaign.'"
On Monday night, Smith was among those working the phones in the Tempe office of Organizing for America, the organization that spun off from Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, formerly called Obama for America. He is one of several volunteers from Ahwatukee. The group was slated to host a training session for volunteers here Wednesday evening at The CoffeeBuzz, 4804 E. Chandler Blvd.
Smith, a self-employed website designer who said he moved to Ahwatukee about a year ago with his same sex partner and child, has encountered many local residents who favor the president and have expressed interest in OFA.
"Surprisingly there has been a big amount of support that I wasn't really counting on. I was completely overwhelmed at the number of people I've met," he said. "I talk to them a lot about the accomplishments of the president."
Jessica Jones, OFA state director, said the group became established in Arizona in early 2009 and is headquartered in Phoenix.
"We are basically what the Obama campaign became after the 2008 election," Jones said.
The group is working to energize the Democratic Party's base and reach out to people who cast a vote for the first time in 2008 for Obama, she said.
The aim is to generate support for the president's agenda and Democratic allies. Locally, that means supporting incumbents like U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) and state Rep. Rae Waters (D-Ahwatukee Foothills) fend off challengers in the Nov. 2 mid-term election, she said.
However, OAF does not take sides on ballot initiatives, Jones said.
"There is strong support for Democrats across the state," she said. "They're not alone. There really are people out there that have the same values as they do."
Volunteers in Ahwatukee have been offering their homes as bases of operations to help get out the vote, she added.
"We've got a great team in Ahwatukee," Jones said. "We're very proud of what our teams on the ground have been able to accomplish in Ahwatukee and across the state."
She noted that she has not observed the "enthusiasm gap" that some have speculated divides the electorate this election season, with Republican voters thought to be more likely to turn out in larger numbers than Democrats.
"What I'm seeing on the ground is a strong amount of energy and momentum," Jones said. "People are enthusiastic."
"I think it's important to note that this idea of an enthusiasm gap is something I don't really see," he said. "I've yet to have anyone who is in some way negative. Everyone is polite and enthusiastic that big things are happening."
Smith said he personally lists bank and financial reforms among his high priorities, along with health care reform and education.
"It goes directly to the issues that American families are having," he said. "This is what grassroots is all about; when you have a group of people with a shared vision come together for common good."