Bethlehem Township pre-school teacher Kathy Harrington became a supporter of then Sen. Barack Obama in 2007 after reading his first book, The Audacity of Hope.
“I know it sounds corny, but after reading it I thought, if there is someone who can fix Washington, he can,” Harrington said.
One of the Republican narratives in this election is that the president has not lived up to the lofty expectations that came about during Obama's 2008 march to the White House, but Harrington doesn’t buy that.
She volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and she is doing it again this year. Harrington is a volunteer team leader for Obama For America, a position that will require her to work full-time type hours for the president’s re-election campaign.
On Thursday night, Harrington was one of more than 150 enthusiastic people who packed a South Bethlehem storefront to celebrate the grand opening of a new Obama campaign field office. As one of the local campaign leaders, she was also one of the speakers who worked to fire up the crowd.
“In 2004, they told me that the terrorists were going to come after my babies. Then I totally ruined the country and voted for George W. Bush,” Harrington said to a chorus of boos, while a few volunteers jokingly threw debris at her. “I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since.”
She told the crowd that Super Political Action Committees run by Karl Rove and David and William Koch have pledged a total of $500 million to produce and run “smear ads” against the president. She said the best way to combat that kind of advertising is to talk to neighbors and friends about the president’s record.
In an interview, she said one of the ways Obama delivered in the first term was through the health care legislation – so called “Obamacare” – that protects people from losing coverage when they get sick or if they have a pre-existing condition.
It also has allowed her to keep her son, a Penn State University student, on her health insurance plan. One little-discussed fact is that the new health care law has created 200,000 new jobs, she said.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that President Obama’s economic policies haven’t worked,” Mayor John Callahan told the crowd. “We have had 24 straight months – that’s two years – of job growth.”
The mayor also raised the issue of Super PAC influence on the campaign, saying there are 48 corporations that are trying to determine the outcome of this election.
Super PACs may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties, but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Also unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from corporations, unions and other groups, and from individuals, without legal limits.
“This is a crossroads for our economy, for our democracy, for our country,” Callahan said. “If we let the Super PACs determine who the next president will be, we are in big, big trouble.”
The Bethlehem field office, at 13 E. Third St., is the third in the Lehigh Valley. Allentown and Easton offices have been up and running for more than a month.