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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bronxite Pushing for Obama in Pennsylvania

There is a huge Democratic primary battle going on today in Pennsylvania and one of our own Bronx boys is there battling in Philadelphia for front-runner Barrack Obama.

Two and a half months ago, Hillary Clinton, backed by most local politicians, handily won the New York primary, despite a serious effort by one Bronx political activist. In the weeks leading up to the Feb. 5 Supper Tuesday primary, Haile Rivera, a University Heights resident, drove his mini-van all over the city campaigning for Obama.

Despite Clinton's nearly 20 percentage point victory here in the Empire State, Obama went on to win a string of primaries and caucuses and currently holds a significant lead in the popular vote and in delegates, going into today's Pennsylvania primary.

After New York, Rivera, a candidate for Maria Baez's soon-to-be-vacant 14the district council seat, began dedicating weekends (and even some week days) volunteering with Obama's campaign in places like Virginia and Rhode Island.

A few weeks ago, Rivera made a risky and possibly life-changing decision. He quit his job (one that he loved and cared deeply about) at the nonprofit New York Food Bank, to work full-time (and get paid less) on Obama's campaign in Philadelphia.

He's now working (that's Rivera pictured) seven days a week, sometimes up to 18 hours a day, leading local volunteers in the struggle for Philadelphia hearts and minds. He says it's hard, but rewarding and that he wouldn't have done it if he didn't believe Obama to be a transcendent politician that could change this country. Plus, he's gaining valuable political chops for his upcoming (and ongoing) campaign for city council. He says it's a "once in a lifetime opportunity."

Luckily, his mother lives there and he stays with her. But his girlfriend, Cosette, still lives in the couple's apartment in U-Heights and the distance is tough on both of them. Every weekend, she takes a Chinatown bus to Philly to help him out on the campaign.

Depending on what happens in Pennsylvania (Clinton has a big lead in polls, but Obama is more popular in Philly and other urban areas), Rivera will have another decision to make. If Obama wins, Clinton might drop out of the race. But if Clinton wins, the race will most certainly continue. Obama officials want Rivera to move on with them to upcoming primary states and he's seriously considering it. Next up: North Carolina and Indiana on May 6. Either way, that's a long bus ride.


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