The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 30, 2008

McCain, Obama camps stump in Central Park

The dueling presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama converged on Johnstown’s Central Park Tuesday afternoon.

Well, sort of.

Though the Johnstown area still has not seen a visit from any major figure associated with the campaigns, volunteers and staff members backing McCain and Obama made an apparently coincidental joint appearance in the park.

The result: Sign-toting Obama backers circling McCain staff disembarking from Pennsylvania’s version of the GOP candidate’s “Straight Talk Express” bus.

“The flip-flop express has arrived,” one Obama volunteer called out.

The bus was stocked not with Republican candidates, but instead with literature about those candidates. McCain’s name and picture adorned the side.

GOP staffers set up a small table on the sidewalk bordering Gazebo Place, offering campaign fliers and yard signs. Also available were absentee ballots and voter-registration information.

“It’s just to get the word out and make the Republican message clear,” said Ann Wilson, who is involved locally with the McCain campaign and serves as Cambria County Republican Committee executive director.

Among those stopping by was Matt Perkosky of Windber, who carried away a McCain/Palin yard sign.

“I think (McCain) speaks from the heart, and he means what he says,” Perkosky said. “He’s for the country, not just his party.”

On the Main Street side of the park, volunteers working for the Democratic presidential nominee gathered behind Johnstown Mayor Tom Trigona.

It was one of several such gatherings organized by the Obama campaign Tuesday in Pennsylvania communities, with small-town mayors asked to speak about the current financial crisis and Obama’s economic plans.

Trigona said the Bush administration has cut federal assistance for communities such as Johnstown.

“If you’re a rational person, I don’t think you have any other choice but to vote Democrat,” Trigona said.

The Obama supporters waiving signs on the sidewalk were mostly young. Ben Kleban, a senior at Pitt-Johnstown, said he believes “it’s time for the nation to have a change of course.”

He added that UPJ students have been holding voter-registration drives on the Richland Township campus.

“We have a lot of support on campus, and every day we do more and more,” Kleban said.

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