Hillary Clinton

A very Wynwood opening for Clinton’s South Florida headquarters

Supporters of Hillary Clinton, leave after the opening rally of the first Clinton's campaign Miami field office in Wynwood, Miami, on Saturday July 9, 2016.
Supporters of Hillary Clinton, leave after the opening rally of the first Clinton's campaign Miami field office in Wynwood, Miami, on Saturday July 9, 2016. pportal@miamiherald.com

Drive by Hillary Clinton’s new South Florida campaign headquarters, and you might miss it.

This being Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, the field office — a massive, big box of a warehouse with tall ceilings and scant air conditioning — is camouflaged by street art, including a towering mural of scantily clad mermaids cavorting underwater, surrounded by coral-reef fish.

“Hillary,” reads a poster on a neighboring wall near the entrance.

In streamed a couple hundred people Saturday morning, ready to inaugurate the office with Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, in town from national headquarters in Brooklyn to rally supporters and sign up volunteers. Clinton’s field organizers, he said, “are the difference between winning or losing here in Florida.”

“President Obama won Florida by less than a point in 2012,” Mook told the sweaty crowd. “We’re going to help Democrats win up and down the ticket.”

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s Florida director, Simone Ward, who works out of Tampa, underscored the importance of the largest swing state in the nation: “We do have a fight in front of us,” she said.

Some of those Democrats who hope to get a boost from Clinton sat in the front row: former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and his primary rival, Annette Taddeo; state Rep. José Javier Rodríguez and former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora, both candidates for state Senate; statehouse candidate Daisy Báez, and Doral mayoral candidate Sandra Ruiz.

Other Democratic politicians also showed up, including state Reps. Joe Geller, David Richardson and Barbara Watson; Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner; Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — who brought his mother and a crowd-pleasing special guest: former Miami Heat basketball player James Jones.

“I want to be vocal. I want to be visible,” said Jones, a Miami Gardens native, of his support for Clinton. (He now plays for the champion Cleveland Cavaliers.) He wore a “#HillYes” campaign button. The candidate herself hasn’t been in town since a May visit to speak at a Fort Lauderdale conference.

The campaign enrolled people in text-message alerts, sold T-shirts and encouraged supporters to write on big sheets of paper taped to the wall why they back Clinton.

“Because she has a great heart,” said Christianne Eslaquit, a 57-year-old Miami office administrator who noted that she has been a Clinton fan since 2008. “She knows about everything. She has experience. She will fight for the poor and the middle class.”

Ernesto Leiro, a 68-year-old retired jeweler from Miramar, said he’s unconcerned about this week’s comments by FBI Director James Comey regarding Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state. Comey recommended no charges to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who agreed, but he harshly criticized Clinton’s practice as “extremely careless.”

“I trust the Department of Justice,” said Leiro, a Cuban-American who immigrated in 1963. “If she had done something wrong, they would have charged her.”

Clinton, he added “is the best candidate for the position.”

And presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump?

“He’s a little arrogant. I think if he were president he would rule like a dictator,” Leiro said. “He’s dangerous.”

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