Locals hold high hopes for Obama's second term

FILE - This Jan. 20, 2009, file photo shows the crowd on the National Mall in Washington for the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama. Four years and one re-election after Obama became America's first black president, some of the thrill is gone. Yes, the inauguration of a U.S. president is still a big deal. But the ceremony that Washington will stage in a few weeks won't be the heady, historic affair it was in 2009, when nearly 2 million people flocked to the National Mall to see Obama take the oath of office. This time, District of Columbia officials expect between 600,000 and 800,000 people for Obama's public swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 21. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 4:58 p.m.

Four years and two campaigns later, Eric Conrad will watch President Barack Obama get inaugurated for his second and final term as the nation's commander-in-chief.

Conrad supported Obama from the start, interning on his campaign in 2008 before becoming deputy press secretary for North Florida during his 2012 re-election campaign.

He hopes to volunteer at the inauguration today and help run the event. But even if he's just a spectator, he looks forward to seeing people who worked hard on the re-election campaign join together to commemorate the continuation of Obama's policies for four more years.

"I just expect it to be a great celebration," he said.

Conrad is happy to see the president working toward curbing gun violence and hopes he will also focus on immigration reform in his second term.

Conrad is one of the few locals who Robert Prather, the new chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee, knows will be attending the inauguration. He expects that is partly because party members were organizing around Saturday's National Day of Service, Obama's inaugural kick-off event, and wanted to remain in town for the local celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Local Democratic Party members are volunteering with Keep Alachua County Beautiful to do roadside cleanup in the Porters neighborhood in Gainesville, and they may have so many volunteers they send some people to help at other sites, Prather said.

The upcoming Gainesville City Commission elections and related campaign efforts may be keeping some Democrats home as well.

As for Obama's second term, Prather said he and many others hope the Obama administration will expand its work in education and environmental protection — especially now that he doesn't have a re-election bid looming before him.

"We always hope in the second term that presidents can afford to spend some more political capital on things we hold dear," Prather said.

But he expects Obama will be practical and measured in how he accomplishes things and isn't worried he'll do anything too controversial, which could cast a shadow on the next Democratic Party nominee for the Oval Office.

Stafford Jones, chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party, said he thinks Obama will be less likely to compromise with the GOP during his second term. He expects more taxes and more government from the president's final years in office.

"I think he has this vision that government can be the great social and economic equalizer," Jones said. That's what Jones expects Obama to work toward — a goal he thinks the president truly believes is an attainable one from which everybody can benefit. But Jones and others don't think that is what government is supposed to be, he cautioned.

Jon Reiskind, former chair of the Alachua County Democratic Party, said he was somewhat disappointed with the administration's lack of initiative on climate change in Obama's first term and hopes that will become a bigger priority this time around without a re-election campaign to worry about.

"You know, in his second term he has a certain amount of freedom, I think, to not look over his shoulder at the next election — and so he may be somewhat bolder, but he is dedicated to working with others," Reiskind said. "So I think we just hope that people will solve problems instead of talk and talk and talk.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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