Campaign offices stay mellow on weekends

by Kaitlin Bell | 1/23/04 6:00am

Think of presidential campaign field offices and one likely pictures phones ringing off the hook, harried staffers plotting campaign strategy and volunteers stuffing envelopes or calling for donations.

But on a recent Saturday, the Democratic candidates' local offices were far from hectic.

In Lebanon, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's office was dark, locked and empty at 3 p.m. Passersby could peer through the windows at Lieberman campaign posters and an empty coffee pot and a few cups, in addition to the seemingly obligatory red, white and blue streamers and large American flag decorating the small room.

An observant Orthodox Jew, Lieberman has made no secret that he takes a break from campaigning from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

But Lieberman's New Hampshire office said the senator's campaign staff doesn't have a policy of not working Saturdays -- especially when a pivotal primary is just days away.

The Howard Dean campaign office across the street was somewhat more bustling, with staffers and volunteers filing in and out of the office as they returned from canvassing efforts.

Campaign volunteer Don Coburn, a sophomore at Lebanon High School, said he enjoyed the rush of working on a campaign.

"I'm usually kept pretty busy," said Coburn, 15. "If I'm not doing something, they'll give me something to do."

News clippings, ward maps, campaign posters and other memorabilia -- some reading "The doctor is in" or "I love Howard Dean" scrawled in magic marker -- lined the office walls. A large sign announced the locations of upcoming house parties, while blog printouts announced Dean supporters' devotion to the candidate.

A hodgepodge of 1970s-era furniture and a food table featuring baked goods interspersed staffers' desks, while computer wires crisscrossed the floor.

And then there was Kerry.

John Kerry's field office, only 10 minutes away in downtown West Lebanon, offered little in the way of mess, but a hefty dose of sophistication.

About a dozen Kerry staffers and volunteers chatted and munched Wendy's takeout and sipped vegetable soup in the sparsely decorated, high-ceilinged room.

Located in a strip mall in downtown West Lebanon, the 50-yard long room had little furniture, save a large formal couch and small coffee table featuring copies of magazines and Kerry's recently-released book, "A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America."

Recent weeks have brought a flurry of activity, staffers said.

"Ever since Kerry started pulling ahead in Iowa, it's been electric," said Adam Hinds, Kerry's Upper Valley regional coordinator.