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Obama may visit here in weekend Oregon tour

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will likely make a stop in Medford as part of a campaign swing through Oregon Friday or Saturday.

"We have been contacted by the Secret Service, and he is coming to Medford," said Deputy Chief Tim George of Medford police. "We don't know when and we don't know where."

George said many of the particulars such as how the Illinois senator will be protected while he's in town will not be revealed.

In 2004, local law enforcement helped protect both presidential and vice-presidential candidates when they came to Medford.

"We have this down now," said George.

Obama campaign officials confirmed he would be in Oregon Friday and Saturday and suggested he could make stops in Salem, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford. A Portland appearance Friday morning is definite, according to Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Oregon.

Sen. Alan Bates, who is on the steering committee for the campaign, said, "There is a strong possibility that he'll be in Medford Friday or Saturday."

Bates said that he has received confirmation that Obama would give a speech Friday night in Eugene. Obama is also doing a fundraiser in Portland on Thursday or Friday, he said.

The Ashland Democrat said the U.S. Secret Service is being cautious, not telling where and when Obama might arrive at other locations.

"For security reasons they are playing it close," he said.

Major candidates who come to Medford frequently go to the Jackson County Expo because of the large arenas there that can hold big crowds.

Expo Director Chris Borovansky said he's heard the rumors of an Obama visit, but said, "We have not been contacted by them."

If Obama chooses the Expo to host a rally, Borovansky said, "We'd love to host him, obviously."

Bates said he worries it might not be secure enough.

"I don't think we would try the Expo," he said. "I have some real concerns that this guy (Obama) is in danger."

Bates thought the Medford Armory might be a better location because it's indoors and would allow for easier crowd control. He said the smaller location also might be appropriate because the announcement of the date and time Obama will arrive won't be made until today or Thursday, leaving little time to notify local residents who might want to attend.

The armory was used by North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in the 2004 campaign when he was the vice presidential running mate for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. "The armory is a great spot," Bates said.

Bates said he thinks the Secret Service has done a good job protecting Obama during the campaign.

Obama collected about $200,000 during a Portland fundraiser and rally in September. His rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, hasn't yet been to Oregon during her presidential campaign.

Ballots for the mail-in primary go out in six weeks. The results are tallied on May 20.

Paulie Brading, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee, said Obama support is strong among Democrats locally and throughout the state.

She said the Obama campaign appears to be better organized locally than Clinton's and has been organizing longer.

"I think he would get a very large turnout," said Brading.

Matt Sutton, group administrator for Oregon South for Barack Obama, expressed surprise at the prospects of his candidate coming to Medford.

"We've been pushing for him to come through, but it never happened," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks about race during a news conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Obama visits Oregon Friday and Saturday. For a story on his speech, see Page 10A. - AP