YOUNGSTOWN — Voters in the Mahoning Valley are gearing up for the election with a candidates’ forum here along with Hillary Clinton and vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden appearing in the area this week.

Biden spoke to several hundred supporters at a campaign rally in Warren, Ohio, Oct. 14 marking the beginning of a statewide bus tour. Senator Clinton is due to arrive on Friday.

The candidates’ forum at New Bethel Baptist Church focused on local issues but invited both presidential campaigns to send speakers. Rufus Hudson spoke for the Obama campaign, “I don’t work for him because he is Black or because he gave a great speech at the Democratic National Convention, but because he has a great program.” The McCain campaign didn’t send a representative.

The Warren rally began with union cheerleaders from SEIU and the Steelworkers rousing the crowd with chants of “Joe Biden,” “Joe Biden” while dancing to the tune of “Got to Give the People What They Want.” Jack Jenkins, regional director of the Obama campaign called on local residents to get involved in voter turnout efforts: “Barack believes change comes from below,” he implored.

Warren Mayor Michael O’Brien welcomed the crowd declaring, “What a great day for Warren. I can smell the fall leaves and I can also smell victory in the air.” He continued, “We are not Bush’s constituents. We are Bush’s victims.” Referring to the Wall Street financial crisis he said, “They want the average Joe to bail them out.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents the area in Washington stirred up the crowd shouting, “We’ve got an election to win.” “The starkest difference between the two candidates” he argued, “is in the first decision they made in running mates. Sarah Palin or Joe Biden?”

Citing the turmoil in world financial markets he warned, “John McCain would have had your Social Security in the stock market.” Ryan was especially critical of McCain’s record on military veterans charging, “You put your party ahead of veterans and country.”

Ryan lambasted McCain’s voting record citing repeated claims that there is not enough money for peoples needs while voting against the minimum wage and health benefits but then turning around and “spending $10 billion a week to fund the war in Iraq.”

AFL-CIO secretary treasurer Richard Trumka brought bad tidings for corporate America to the rally: “The news is that on November 4th working people are going to bring two new leaders to the White House… leaders who are going to end the war in Iraq. Never before have we had the opportunity to vote for two who are so committed to working people and unions.” Trumka noted that under Bush’s and McCain’s watch over 40,000 plants in the US have closed. A middle-class voter choosing McCain, “Is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders,” he warned.

Senator Biden stuck to working-class themes in a strident address. “We want to do more than stop the slide,” he contended. “We want to rebuild organized labor!”

The difference between the two campaigns he said is “One guy is fighting for you and one is fighting mad.”

Pointing to the local effects of the housing crisis Biden said, “500 properties have been foreclosed on this year in Warren.” To address this problem, the Obama/Biden campaign is now calling for a three-month moratorium on all foreclosures.

In addition the Democrats propose a windfall profits tax on oil corporations that would allow for a $1,000 rebate. Biden claimed the idea came from Palin who in their recent debate said a windfall tax was applied in Alaska.

Audience members appreciated the idea, but not the Senator from Alaska. One Italian American senior joked. “I call Palin, ‘the pelican.’ She can’t do nothing but catch minnows.” He continued more seriously, “I hope Obama kicks the shit out of them.”