Never before has a presidential election sparked such activism in the Keys, and never was it so apparent Monday in Bahama Village in Key West.
Supporters of Democrat Barack Obama gathered at Blue Heaven at noon and held a mini campaign rally, then proceeded to march down Thomas Street, turning onto Southard and arriving at the polling location set up in Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer's office on Whitehead Street.
"I think it's great," said City Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who attended the event. "I'm glad to finally see the electricity we need in Key West. I've been bothered by the complacency I've seen up until now."
The event, sponsored by the Key West Obama campaign office, was titled "27 for 27" in reference to the date and the number of electoral votes designated to Florida.
Obama field organizer Dan Kacinski gave a speech that was interspersed with cheers from about 50 people that had assembled at Blue Heaven to participate.
"As we're looking at it [the presidential race in Florida], we're neck and neck. We need to make sure now that we get out and vote. This campaign is about something different. I think we all know that we need it. We're in that home stretch; it's not time to be complacent."
Phyllis LeConte, a Bahama Village resident who has been vigorously volunteering with the Obama campaign, was handing out campaign literature. She previously was signing up voters.
"I got 21 people registered for the first time," she said. "I did my canvass for Obama. Early voting gives people the option of not waiting in line. You have time to pick your candidate."
Marchers were festooned with Obama stickers, buttons, banners and T-shirts, and chanted along the way campaign slogans such "Yes we can" and, for Spanish-speaking potential voters, "Si se puede." As the crowd stood across the street from the elections office encouraging passers-by to vote, LeConte led supporters in an impromptu chorus of "That's what this change is -- solid as Barack."
Author Rosalind Brackenbury moved from Europe to Key West 15 years ago and is excited because this is the first presidential election in which she'll be eligible to vote.
"I'm really keen that he [Obama] should be elected. Democrats have been really organized."
Brackenbury also touted the benefits of voting early, saying, "I think it's a really good way at picking up snafus and mistakes. If people go to the polls and are not admitted, they can go again."
"Voting early is supposed to be the thing to do," said Obama backer Larry Cohen. Besides, he said with a smile, "We don't want another stolen election."
Lopez, speaking to supporters, thanked them for their efforts and emphasized there was still work to be done: "What the challenge is in Bahama Village is making sure they [residents] do get out to vote."
The latest Rasmussen polling report for Florida, compiled Oct. 20, had Republican John McCain leading with 49 percent of likely voters compared to Obama's 48 percent.