Daniel Sheppard, Republican Party Victory Campaign field director, teaches volunteers how to man the telephones during the Victory 2012 Kickoff Campaign, Saturday. Mark Wilson Photo
The Republican Victory 2012 Kickoff was held Saturday at the Volunteer Center, 1400 W. Second St., in an effort to garner support for the party in the home stretch of the 2012 presidential election.
The Victory organization is Gov. Mitt Romney’s nationwide campaign and is working in conjunction with the Republican National Convention and the Republican Party of New Mexico. Small groups of individuals came out and were greeted and briefed on how to use the phones at the site’s call center.
Although volunteers didn’t come out in droves on opening day, Roswell Mayor Del Jurney said this is a good time for the local efforts to get started.
“It’s still very early,” he said. “Most people don’t start paying attention to the general election until after Labor Day. Whether it be Democrats or Republicans, this is the time for the organizations to ramp up and to get their grassroots efforts in place and to be ready for when the public begins paying attention to what’s going on.”
He went on to say that the Roswell site has all the pieces in place to draw a decent number of volunteers.
“It’s a process. I think finding a good site is important and they’ve accomplished that. You’ve got the core of the group in the various aspects of the campaign present and I think volunteers are going to trickle in.”
Alice Eppers, secretary for the site and former chairman of the Republican Party, said having a place to set up wasn’t always an easy task. In 2008 and 2010 they were on the corner of Second and Main streets, in a former Denny’s, but were forced to relocate when a Subway was put in its place. She found their current location about a month ago.
Eppers is confident the center’s efforts will get voters excited about the upcoming election and make up for a dismal turnout at the primaries.
Less than 35 percent of voters showed up for the Republican primaries, which she attributes to how late primaries actually take place in New Mexico. It’s pretty clear who the candidate will be by the time New Mexicans get to vote, and that leads many voters to become apathetic. An early start, in addition to a personal connection to the efforts are two factors Eppers thinks will bring more volunteers out.
“People are concerned about their savings, especially us retired people because we can’t work,” she said. “I think that’s what is bringing people in, the concern for their future, well as the future of their children and grandchildren. It’s all about getting America back to how it was in our day.”
Former Republican Chairman of Chaves County Phelps Anderson said these issues are exactly why he is volunteering.
“America faces great challenges,” he said. “And I am volunteering because I am unable to let this election get away without a contest. Issues of our economy, job growth, and national defense are at the top of my list in this election.”
Issues such as the current 8.2 percent national unemployment rate that was recently reported give the Republican party an advantage according to Clay Sutton, New Mexico victory communications director.
“This puts us on offense,” he said, “and in a strong position to capitalize on the fact that President Obama is on defense over his failed economic record as we saw again today with the national unemployment numbers.”
The center will be open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from now until Election Day. Staff members are prepared for the task that lies ahead of them these next few months and joked that they’ll sleep Nov. 7.