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Former Republican says Obama unites

Medford resident Jerry Thurmond broke ranks recently with a long tradition of conservatism in a family that he says traces its lineage to Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who supported segregation and opposed civil rights laws.

The 33-year-old switched parties four weeks ago, becoming a Democrat because of a powerful conviction that Barack Obama should be the next president.

"He offers a different kind of politics," said Thurmond, explaining his reasoning. "He is not divisive. He offers a message that is welcoming and inclusive."

Thurmond was one of dozens of euphoric Obama supporters who showed up at the Jackson County Democratic headquarters in downtown Medford Wednesday to get more information about the Saturday town hall meeting.

Christine Haynes, office manager at the Democratic headquarters, said her phone has been ringing off the hook and she's had a difficult time responding to messages and e-mails.

Thurmond said he's on a mission to get other Republicans to switch parties. He said he's already convinced seven of his friends to make the change and he's still working on his parents.

"I've never seen anything like this," he said. "It is so exciting."

His friend, Larry Lutz of Butte Falls, said he's also persuaded four friends to switch parties.

Lutz said he doesn't remember being as fired up by an election since Eugene McCarthy ran for president in 1968.

He said he's not impressed by Obama's challenger, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, or the Republican contender, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

"Hillary's been there, done that — she doesn't offer anything new, and McCain's more of the same," he said.

Medford resident John King offered to volunteer to help the Democratic Party when Obama comes to town.

"He transcends party lines," said King, who was disappointed he would be out of town for the Saturday town hall meeting.

Bryan Platt, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, said that if anyone changes parties because they think Obama espouses conservative viewpoints, they better think again.

"They are not truly Republican," he said. Obama "is the number one most liberal senator."

He said he can understand why some people have such high regard for Obama, though.

"He has far more personality than a Hillary Clinton or a John McCain," he said. "This is the thing about Obama. His charisma seems to compel people to support him, but he doesn't have the facts to support what he says."

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

Former Republican says Obama unites