Hundreds line up to see senator speak

Sen. Barack Obama took his message of changing the old partisan politics into a conservative corner of Oregon today.

Hundreds of supporters stood in a line stretching more than 200 yards in the early morning cold in Medford to get good seats for Obama's 9:30 a.m. town-hall meeting.

A long line of people hoping to get in without tickets wound through the parking lot and down nearby Austin Street. Organizers were starting to allow some people in that line into the building at about 9 a.m.

Recreation technician John McKellig, 54, and retired postal worker Arlene Aron, 60, both from the rural community of Applegate, had tickets and showed up at 9:30 Friday night to be first in line.

"I'm interested in seeing the red state-blue state division disappear," said McKellig, who left the Republican Party and became a Democrat in 2000 after the election of President Bush. "I think we need to heal."

Terry Baker, 27, a forester recently graduated from Yale University and also from Applegate, said he was not closely following the campaign until he read Obama's speech on the need to overcome racism.

"That one speech really did it for me," he said.

In a sign of Oregon's unexpected emergence as a key state in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama's chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, has announced that she and Bill Clinton also have Oregon trips in the works.

Obama began his swing through Oregon in Portland on Friday morning, where he was joined on stage by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a one-time contender for the presidency who endorsed Obama despite long-standing ties to the Clintons.

— Wire and staff reports

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