Obama visit puts focus on west Medford

Richard Fowler is probably the first person in Medford ever to be trapped in his home by Barack Obama. The 52-year-old Republican nods at his driveway on Edwards Street.

"That's my pickup those people are leaning on," he says.

That would be the people with the Obama signs. They crowd this working-class, residential street of older homes behind Kids Unlimited, where the candidate plans a town hall meeting this bright Saturday morning.

The crowd shares the street — and Fowler's driveway — with Medford police, Secret Service men and people from the Obama campaign. Television remote trucks are crowded into the space behind the venue across the street and a bit to the east.

"The Secret Service told me I can't get out of here until noon," Fowler says.

"I'm for McCain," he adds.

A middle-aged man in camouflage with a Navy veteran's patch and an Obama T-shirt moves from the crowd to Fowler's porch with a self-effacing grin.

"Will you take $10 to let me use your bathroom?" he says.


"I've been drinking coffee all morning."

Fowler moves for the door.

"I'll have to put my dog away," he says.

Fowler's son, Gideon Rayburn, 28, says it's exciting to have Obama come not just to Medford, but to a place kitty-corner across the street.

"I'd like to see Obama win," he says. "I think he's a good leader. I think he could help our society. It would be nice to see an African-American in the presidency."

The crowd grows with the addition of people who have parked blocks away and walked the back way to Kids Unlimited through the neighborhood.

"Yes we can!" they chant. "Yes we can!

"Keep telling the truth. We believe in you."

A guy with an Obama sign walks up Fowler's driveway coming from the back.

"You got a place for my banana peel?" he asks.

Several doors down, Lynda Miller is beginning her day as a hairdresser in the shop that adjoins the home on Niantic Street where she's lived for more than 20 years. Miller grew up in Medford in the 1950s, when kids used to get out of school to work in the orchards. She remembers turning out to see President Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. There were no black people in Medford then, she says, and hardly any people from Mexico.

"Medford has really changed," she says.

She favors Hillary Clinton for president.

"But if Obama gets the nomination I'll be glad to vote for him," she says. "I think he might be good for the country."

A block away, on Beatty Street, parked cars line the narrow streets for blocks. Donna Nelson worries that somebody might park in the driveway of the home where she's lived since the 1940s, when her father worked for a local timber company. Confined to a wheelchair, she is concerned about what would happen if she had to go to the hospital. She says she's been following the campaign.

"My choice is Clinton," she says. "I'd like to see both Obama and Clinton get in. I'd like to see them grow up a little and stop fighting. That's politics."

Nelson's No. 1 issue is health care, and she thinks either Clinton or Obama would be better at making reforms than McCain. She says Republicans are too friendly with the drug companies.

Back on Edwards Street, a buzz goes through the crowd and grows to cheering as Obama emerges from a big bus, spots the crowd and walks toward it. He's accompanied by campaign aides and Secret Service men and talking to a lanky reporter in sunglasses as he walks.

Obama crosses the police line and begins pumping hands. A slight man with a million-watt smile, he stops to look people in the eye and listen before moving on.

Rayburn, who left his porch to plunge into the crowd, returns, beaming.

"He shook my hand," he says.

Fowler says the whole thing is something you don't see every day.

"Especially in this neighborhood."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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