Suffolk welcomes Biden

Published 10:02 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

Long before the sun inched across the horizon Saturday morning, Stacy Newsom was standing outside Nansemond River High School.

“I’ve been here since 5 a.m.,” said Newsom, a Norfolk resident who waited in line for nearly six hours on Saturday to hear Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden speak in Suffolk.

“I already know who I’m voting for … but I want to hear what he has to say about the economy and energy policies,” said Newsom. “This is a chance for people … to research and educate themselves (about the candidates) before they head to the polls.”

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Newsom was one of an estimated 1,000 people from across Hampton Roads who turned out for Biden’s whirlwind stop in Suffolk around 11 a.m. Saturday. By the time the doors opened shortly after 10 a.m., the line of supporters stretched across the front of the Nansemond Parkway school.

Biden and his running mate, presidential candidate Barack Obama, have made nine visits to Virginia since the primaries. Saturday marked the first time a candidate on the presidential ticket has come to town since 1964, when Democratic vice presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson stumped in Suffolk, according to party officials.

Neither the forecast of rain nor the long wait deterred people from coming to see Biden. Vendors hawking T-shirts and flags set up shop on the sidewalk outside the school, as the people in line passed the time chatting or reading.

Denise Calhoun of Chesapeake and her daughter, Blakely, a Western Branch High School sophomore, said they came to witness history being made.

“I never in my life thought I’d see so many people wanting to be a part of this,” said Denise Calhoun. “It’s time for change.”

It was refreshing to see so many teenagers at the rally, she said, adding that her daughter had learned first about Biden’s appearance.

“Kids really are our future … and they need to understand the role that they play in the political process,” she said. “Children need to understand the power of the vote.”

That’s one reason Suffolk resident Leslie Rinaldi brought her kids, Justice, 15, and Jonathon, 10, to the rally. After hearing Biden, the children grabbed paper and joined the crowd clustered around the senator in hopes of getting an autograph.

“I see this as a new beginning,” said Rinaldi, a new volunteer for the Obama campaign. While it will be a few years before her children can vote, she believes it is important for their generation to understand the role that people need to assume in politics.

“I think we, as Americans, have become too complacent and then we have the audacity to get upset when government runs amuck,” she said, referring to the country’s current fiscal crisis. “We allowed it to run with no check and balances … and now we see what is happening.”

Christina Gordon, a 24-year-old teacher at Nansemond River, and Jessica Gordon, of Suffolk, said they came to the rally to support Obama and Biden. The sisters said they particularly like Obama’s economic policies and his pro-choice abortion stance.

“He is reaching out to people,” said Christina Gordon. “We keep hearing about Joe the plumber.

“Well, what about Jessica the college student and Christina the teacher?”