ST. PAUL, Minn. – Supporting Sen. John McCain in his presidential bid has been a study in sacrifice for Maryland alternate delegate Crystal Zorbaugh.
First, she switched parties, then, as a single working mother, reached into her pockets to buy campaign supplies after most had written McCain off as an unviable candidate. Now she’s missing her 5-year-old son’s first week of school to attend the 2008 Republican National Convention.
“As a measure of how dedicated I am, my son is the center of my universe and I’m missing five days with him,” Zorbaugh said.
But Zorbaugh, 32, from Huntingtown in the 5th Congressional District said it’s worth it. A registered Democrat until December, she felt so passionate about McCain that she switched parties just days before the deadline to register as a delegate on the ballot.
“I really picked him when I heard him say in a speech, ‘I would rather lose an election than lose a war,'” she said. “I know people who say McCain’s ‘Country First’ slogan is a gimmick and take shots at him, but I think he lives it and I live it.”
Specifically, Zorbaugh agrees with McCain on downsizing government, reducing taxes, and opposing Democratic stances for health care reform.
But it was McCain’s history of service that resonated with Zorbaugh, a longtime volunteer for philanthropic causes. She he has volunteered for domestic abuse shelters and veterans efforts, as well as other causes in the past. She now works as the director of Sunday school education at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Edgewater.
Zorbaugh, who always wears a silver necklace etched with a picture of her son Charles, said it has been difficult missing her son’s first week of school but added that the boy, also an avid McCain supporter, understands.
Last week he got so excited, he jumped the gun a bit.
“Charles said, ‘Mommy, my favorite president is Abraham Lincoln but McCain is my second,'” Zorbaugh said.
She often takes him to rallies decked out in McCain regalia. They also watched the primaries together.
Zorbaugh began campaigning for McCain as a Democrat in 2007. Some in the campaign were wary at first, she said, but after at least 10 calls to McCain’s national headquarters in Northern Virginia she got a response. At the time, there was no campaign office in Maryland.
After months of front-line political stumping on street corners and at McCain events, she gained the campaign’s confidence and rose quickly in the ranks.
By April 2007 she was named chairwoman of the Calvert County Committee for McCain and coordinated primary efforts.
That was when Frank McCabe, chairman of the Calvert County Central Republican Committee, asked Zorbaugh for her input on a county campaign chairman. Without her knowledge, he submitted her name.
Zorbaugh said she never expected to be considered, so when she got it she was surprised and thrilled, despite some apprehension about how she would work it into her already packed life.
Just before the primaries, David Hayes of the McCain campaign asked Zorbaugh if she would consider running as an alternate delegate, prompting the party switch.
The switch had everything to do with McCain, not parties she said.
“I would not be a Republican and I would not be here if it weren’t for Sen. McCain . . . if it was anybody other than Sen. McCain.
“I think he has the ability to unite this country,” she said sighting herself as an example. “I was working for McCain as a Democrat.”