TAMPA — A diverse and enthusiastic crowd filled the sprawling offices of Barack Obama's Florida presidential campaign headquarters in Ybor City for its grand opening Wednesday.
The event marked the official opening of an Obama campaign office in the state. Florida campaign director Steve Schale said it will be the first of many.
"We will have the largest and most comprehensive political operation this state has ever seen," he said.
Plans call for opening satellite offices elsewhere in Tampa and Pinellas County. The campaign also will open offices in areas Schale said have typically been given little attention by Democrats, including Duval County, Gadsden County and St. Augustine.
But the Tampa office, on Ninth Avenue at 17th Street, is the "nerve center."
"We want to fight for Tampa Bay," he said. "If you don't win Hillsborough County, you don't win the state."
Up to 40 paid staffers will work out of the space, owned by Alan Kahana, who owns multiple properties in Ybor.
John McCain, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, is operating his campaign locally at the state GOP Tampa Victory office at 142 W Platt St. Its state headquarters is in Tallahassee. Republicans have similar regional campaign offices in Jacksonville, Orlando, Naples and elsewhere.
About 300 supporters gathered for Obama's headquarters opening Wednesday, a group that included young people with dreadlocks and tattoos and men and women in business suits.
State Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Thurman was there, along with state Rep. Michael Scionti, D-Tampa, Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White and state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-West Palm Beach.
State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, was among the speakers.
Obama supporters might have different backgrounds and experience, she said, but they are united "with one goal and that is to change America."