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Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama rolled into Portola Valley around 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, spent 45 minutes speaking and taking questions from some 300 donors, and came away with $453,000 to add to his campaign for the 2008 election.
The Democratic senator from Illinois visited the home of Portola Valley resident Eileen Chamberlain-Donahoe, who confirmed the amount raised -- the minimum donation was $1,000 -- and added that Mr. Obama's "authenticity" has removed any doubt about her vote next year.
"I've met John Edwards and think he's great, and I think Hillary (Clinton) is great, but they don't compare," she said. "I think people are shocked to hear people in politics speak in such a true way. People are just sick of polarization in this country. I think (Mr. Obama) represents the possibility that we can rise above that and actually solve some problems instead of pointing fingers at each other."
About 100 Portola Valley residents attended, said co-host Danna Breen. A commissioner on the town's Architectural & Site Control Commission, Ms. Breen said she invited Mayor Ted Driscoll and Councilwoman Maryann Moise Derwin, but both were unavailable.
Ms. Breen said her e-mail invitations went out without regard to party affiliation. "It's all about the dialog," she said. "It's important for everyone to stay open. How lucky we are that there's such a large pool of candidates, both Republican and Democrat."
She said she and her daughters had their pictures taken with Mr. Obama before his public remarks. "... I loved his spirit of unifying," she said of the evening. "I came away feeling wonderful about that."
Councilman Steve Toben, who said he hopes every 2008 candidate for president pays a local visit, said he was asked to talk about Portola Valley with Mr. Obama. He said he declined, in part to the cost ($1,000 minimum donation) and because "it was not an event where I felt I could really add value."
Resident Angela Siddall, a retired psychotherapist and registered Democrat, did give $1,000 and called Mr. Obama a good listener and described his self-deprecating sense of humor as "lovely."
"He is just exceptional, and he's not full of himself, you know," she said. "Compared with the person in power at the moment, what a great representative (Mr. Obama) would be. ... He really addressed some of the big things that all politicians have to look at."
Among them: a more "socialized" health care system, a "more fair" tax system, and an end to the war in Iraq.
Ms. Siddall said John Edwards, a "really smart man who's very ethical," might yet sway her, but added: "I don't see that anybody would give me the same kind of experience" as Mr. Obama.
He was reportedly short on specifics, but no one interviewed for this story faulted him. "It's early days," Ms. Siddall said in a typical comment. "I don't think you can have a plan for everything at this point."
Among the volunteers recognized for raising money for Mr. Obama was Steve Westly, an Atherton resident, venture capitalist and a recent Democratic candidate for governor. Mr. Westly, who was not present, is a co-chair of Mr. Obama's California campaign, said a spokesman for Mr. Westly's political action committee, the California Leadership Committee.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to return to the Bay Area for another fundraiser on Saturday, March 17, Ms. Breen said. Send e-mail to Ms. Breen at [email protected] for more information.