Canvassing voters to promote jobs, justice

CLEVELAND — “I would walk to the end of the earth to defeat George Bush,” said Elsa Maldonado with passion. In fact, Elsa, known as “Chachi,” did travel about 670 miles from her home in New Bedford, Mass., to Cleveland, where she is canvassing door-to-door and encouraging voter turnout in this key battleground state.

Chachi, 42, a “proud Puerto Rican” who grew up in the South Bronx of New York, is a mother and grandmother. Five years ago, she completed her high school diploma, and last year graduated magna cum laude from college with a degree in sociology and social service. After the adult education program she was teaching ran out of grant monies, Chachi, like millions of others, was sent to the unemployment line.

While in college, Chachi became an activist, helping win a struggle to stop the use of prison chain gangs to clean state highways in Massachusetts, and going door-to-door to help elect a progressive city councilor.

“My concerns are the same as most people,” she said. “Job loss, health care, and especially education for my kids and grandkids. The cutbacks and regulations of the Bush administration are another way to oppress minorities and everybody.”

Asked why she came to Ohio, Chachi explained, “This election could go either way. If my presence can help to defeat Bush then I’m going to help in any way needed.” She is very excited about her experience. “This is not just neighbors getting together, but states coming together … people from all walks of life with one purpose in mind — to get Bush out of office.”

Many political pundits consider Cleveland to be the epicenter of this presidential election. The surrounding Cuyahoga County is the strongest Democratic area in the state, could decide the election.

Speaking to his grassroots campaign volunteers recently, Dennis Kucinich, who represents the Cleveland area in the U.S. House, emphasized, “It is very rare to have the chance to determine the next president. This is for the future of the world.”

The author can be reached at joelle.fishman@pobox.com.