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The Great Schlep is not so great

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Corinne Freeman says her grandchildren won't try to change her mind about voting Republican.

"They don't talk politics with me,'' said Freeman, who was elected mayor in 1977 and re-elected in 1979 and 1981.

"They think I'm too conservative.''

So much for the Great Schlep. That's what Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman is calling her effort to get Jewish grandchildren to urge their Florida grandparents to vote for Barack Obama. "Schlep" is a Yiddish term that means to carry something with difficulty. It can also mean an arduous journey.

"Whether you're visiting in person (Great Schlep) or making a phone call (Mini Schlep) here are some ways to talk to your grandparent about Obama ... besides loudly,'' says Silverman's Web site (www.thegreatschlep.com).

The site offers talking points, but in an expletive-laced video, the comedian says, "You don't have to use facts. Use threats.''

Businessman and philanthropist Walter Loebenberg, 84, a Republican, says his grandchildren have not tried to sway his vote, nor he theirs.

"I do not influence my grandchildren. They have to be independent,'' said the grandfather of eight, all but one eligible to vote.

Several area grandparents say they have grandchildren campaigning for the presidential candidates and talk about being respectful of their decisions. In turn, for the sake of harmony, some descendants aren't pushing their convictions on their elders.

The next president's foreign policy toward Israel is of great concern to Marilyn LeVine, 78, who doesn't think Obama would be good for the Jewish state. Her family is split politically, she said. A granddaughter in New York City is working to get Obama elected. Another in Miami wants McCain.

"Nobody has tried to convince me as far as grandchildren, knowing my stand,'' LeVine said.

"We didn't need Silverman to tell us who to vote for,'' said Arnold Argintar, 91, a Democrat.

"We just didn't want eight more years.''

Still, his family has had the talk. Argintar said he and his wife, Eleanor "Ellie," recently returned from Atlanta, where they attended their granddaughter's engagement party. During the family gathering, said Argintar, who operated Arnold's Men's Wear in St. Petersburg for 72 years, there was "a good roundtable'' talk about the presidential candidates. A great-nephew is raising money for the Republican Party, "so we had a heavy discussion,'' he said.

Irma Hillman's discussion with her grandchildren was brief.

"Outside of them just saying to me, 'You're voting for Obama, aren't you?' " that was it, said, Hillman, 82.

Her sister Seena Baker, 78, said her grandchildren already know how strongly she feels about Obama.

Rather than being on the receiving end of a Silverman-inspired campaign for the Democratic candidate, the Florida grandmother said she persuaded a daughter and son-in-law in Israel to vote for Obama instead of McCain.

"So there's a reverse on her whole schlepping,'' Baker said.

Times staff writer Martha Rial contributed to this article. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

The Great Schlep is not so great 11/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 8:08pm]
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