Mie Larson and Cheryl Conley-Strange pose for a photo in Winnipeg, Man. on Oct. 20, 2016. (Photo: Cheryl Conley-Strange/CP)''It's a lot of work." She knows from experience. The Winnipeg woman has worked every federal Liberal campaign since 1979, when she was a poll captain for future foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy. She'd intended to retire from organizational work after the federal election, satisfied with the state of her party. But she figured she had one more campaign in her. Conley-Strange chatted with Manitoba friends about helping political allies in the U.S.: ''I started saying to them, 'Hey, why don't we go down to the States and help (the Democrats)?'... To be neighbourly — to help people who feel the same way we do (about issues)."
"If Hillary (Clinton) captures Florida, well, she captures the White House."She suggested staying at her family's winter home in central Florida. So many people took her up on the idea that they wound up getting a second place in the same Kissimmee neighbourhood. She'd bought in that location a few years ago — she liked the proximity to Disneyworld. It also happened to be on rich electoral soil. She only realized recently that Central Florida is considered the swing region of the biggest swing state. it's sandwiched between Florida's solidly Republican north and solidly Democratic south. And it has tens of thousands of new available votes. An influx of Puerto Ricans is having a ripple-effect on the politics in this area, and therefore on the country. These new residents are eligible to vote immediately, as Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. They tend to be more liberal than the state's Cuban voters. And their ranks are growing to rival the Cubans.
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A key battlegroundShe came in September to meet Democratic party organizers; helped set things up for the arrival of her friends; and made calls to register voters. She sat near Spanish-speaking colleagues, and turned over the phone whenever she couldn't communicate with someone in English. Her friends arrive over the coming week. They include a former Manitoba Liberal candidate and provincial party official. Because she arrived earlier, she got to attend a campaign rally last week featuring President Barack Obama: "It was like seeing a rock star," she said. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience." She said she supports the Democrats for their shared views on social issues, like same-sex marriage and women's rights. As for their opponent, she expressed dismay over things Trump has said about foreigners, like Mexicans.
Can't buy souvenirs"It just goes so far beyond anything we're used to seeing in politics," she said. "It can't become the norm." The one thing Canadians can't contribute to this election is money. "I asked (the Democrats) if I could buy a T-shirt," she said. "They said no." A foreign national can volunteer for a U.S. party and, in fact, Canadian and American campaign workers regularly help parties across the border. The federal Liberals even lease the same voter-outreach software used by the Democrats — so Conley-Strange knows the system well. Foreigners cannot, however, make financial donations. That includes buying partisan souvenirs.