Obama comes to promote Frerichs

Barack Obama, United States Senator, applauds Mike Frerichs before being called to the podium to speak to a crowd of supporters in Danville, Wednesday. Obama spoke in support of Mike Frerichs, who is running as the Democratic candidate for Illinois State Brad Vest

Barack Obama, United States Senator, applauds Mike Frerichs before being called to the podium to speak to a crowd of supporters in Danville, Wednesday. Obama spoke in support of Mike Frerichs, who is running as the Democratic candidate for Illinois State Brad Vest

By Kathleen Foody

Hundreds of people gathered in Temple Square in the center of downtown Danville Wednesday afternoon carrying fluorescent posters in support of Mike Frerichs, the Democratic candidate for the 52nd State Senate.

Just across the street, away from all the chaos, Evelyn Morris sat in a lawn chair in front of a beauty parlor gripping her walker, waving as Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., approached the Square with Frerichs, applause and cheers rising from the crowd.

Though she wore a vivid orange shirt supporting Frerichs, Obama was the real reason Morris came to the Square.

Obama spotted Morris and her daughters and jogged towards the women, his blue striped tie flying over his shoulder.

Morris’ daughter Judith Cottrell, said Obama told her mother not to get up and that he would come to her.

Morris laughed and adjusted her floppy hat.

“All I said was ‘I know you,’ and he said he knew me too,” the lifelong Danville resident said.

Obama has been campaigning for Democratic candidates throughout Illinois and the nation this season, but said he wanted to make a special trip to campaign for Frerichs, who he has known for about four years.

“He’s one of the young leaders in Illinois,” Obama said. “He has a deep commitment to this region … so I’m hopeful that in their wisdom the people of towns like Danville and Urbana-Champaign will elevate him to the next stage of his political career.”

Frerichs said he first met Obama seven years ago when he saw the Senator speak in Chicago. Frerichs’ wife, Laura, urged him to attend one of the rising politician’s speeches.

“I thought I was just going to see a guy with a funny name,” Frerichs said. “But I found a man who inspired all people and I knew he had a great future in politics.”

Obama spoke to the crowd for about 20 minutes urging them to show their support for Frerichs by becoming active in the campaign.

“I urge you; don’t just vote,” he said. “It’s not enough for Mike to step up. You have to step up too.”

Obama addressed a variety of topics at issue in the race, including the need for health care reform, improving education standards and funding, and the need for alternate energy sources.

“None of the problems facing Illinois are insurmountable,” he said.

Frerichs’ opponents, Republican Judy Myers and Socialist Equality Party candidate Joe Parnarauskis, said Obama’s visit will not alter their campaign strategies.

Myers said she believes the support former Governor Jim Edgar has given her campaign carries as much influence as Obama’s presence.

Parnarauskis said Obama’s support of Frerichs reinforces his campaign’s assertion that the Democratic party is in alliance with big business.

Bill Cleeland, spokesman for the Myers campaign, said voters will focus on issues rather than supporters.

“People will make their decisions based on the candidates’ names, not Senator Obama’s.”