One morning in early June, a truck driver parked his rig in the middle of Walnut Street. While traffic backed up behind the truck, the driver ran into Columbia’s Democratic headquarters and requested two John Kerry bumper stickers.
Providing bumper stickers, yard signs and general information about the Democratic candidates are some of the functions of the headquarters, said Bill Clark, a volunteer at the Boone County Democratic Central Committee office in Columbia.
Clark said he’s been surprised by the response to the office. It opened June 1 — two months earlier than in most election years — and celebrated its grand opening Sunday. Clark said there seems to be more interest surrounding this year’s election.
But in the scramble to put an office together to serve that interest, not everything was ready on time.
“For the first 10 days, we didn’t have phones,” Clark said.
Nonetheless, local Democrats rented the vacated Illumia art gallery, 916 E. Walnut St., and got to work.
Charley Christy, Democratic Central Committee chair, said it costs about $2,500 per month to keep the office open. The Democrats pay for it with money they’ve raised during the past four years.
Christy said one representative of the state Democratic Party moved in Monday, and the party will help cover some of the expenses.
The benefit of having an office is that it can act as a regional collecting spot, Christy said.
“Folks will come in from as far as Kirksville,” he said.
Though Democrats and Republicans tend to disagree, both sides can see the importance of having local offices. Russ Duker, president of the Columbia Pachyderms, said having a Republican office is important because of the close voting record of central Missouri.
“I feel like it’s a pretty close race, Boone County especially,” Duker said. “President Bush lost Boone County by 388 votes. Matt Blunt lost Boone County by 831 votes.”
Duker said that while there are offices in Columbia for Republican incumbents Sen. Kit Bond, President George W. Bush and Rep. Kenny Hulshof, there is not yet a central office for Republicans. But the Republicans still organize volunteers without an office, Duker said.
“There’s a lot of dedicated folks here, working day and night, literally,” Duker said. He said there are about 200 volunteers for the Republican Party in the area.
Terry Spickert, chairman for the local Republican headquarters committee, said he is confident the Republicans will open an office in Columbia within three weeks.
In the Democratic headquarters, Christy said there are about 75 to 100 people who will conduct voter ID programs and phone canvassing. The office also sells Democratic merchandise, such as T-shirts and buttons, he said.
Clark said he doesn’t know exactly what value the office has, but he said it’s important because it gives people a place to ask questions.
Clark said a man who spent six years in prison asked if he could register to vote. After Clark pointed him in the right direction, he said he was confident the office had helped.
“I guarantee you, he will vote Democrat,” Clark said.