Alexandria Democrats descended on Richmond Saturday night for the Jefferson-Jackson dinner made exceptional this year by the arrival of two presidential candidates in a hotly contested battle.
Both Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) are intensely vying for the affections of Virginians as Tuesdays primary draws near. They pulled out all the stops at the annual fundraising dinner to make their case one last time.
Clinton was first to speak and used her speech at the dinner to unveil her new verbal assault on the presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). I am ready to go toe to toe with Sen. McCain whenever and wherever he desires, Clinton said to thunderous applause.
State Senator Patsy Ticer of Alexandria, a Clinton supporter, said, She is full of content and commitment to our democratic values.”
John Flannery, a Leesburg attorney, is also supporting Clinton and said he marvels at how both Clinton and Obama sound so heartfelt and inspirational, despite having to be so exhausted from all the campaigning.
Others like Rep. Brian Moran and Alexandria Democratic Party Chair Sue Kellum are keeping their powder dry and not endorsing anyone. Both Moran and Kellum said they were thrilled that Democrats have two solid choices. Both candidates are wonderful-we should feel very lucky to have two fabulous candidates in contrast to the Republicans, Moran said.
Morans brother Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) who endorsed Obama in Alexandria Sunday, said the real focus should be electing a Democrat in November. We are not about defeating fellow Democrats; we are about taking back America from radical GOP opposition.
Senate candidate Mark Warner of Old Town does not regret his decision to abandon his presidential bid. He told the crowd on the night of the New Hampshire primary he was just relishing his role as father. “That means taking my daughter recently to a Hannah Montana concert,” he said.
Gov. Tim Kaine, an early endorser of Obama, introduced him to a raucous reception. Obama was greeted as political rock star as attendees chanted yes, we can and we want change!
Former City Manager and Alexandria icon Vola Lawson said she was delighted with Obamas presence at the dinner and was not surprised at his strong base of support in the Commonwealth. I sent him a letter and a check the day he announced, she recalled.
Obama was quick to pay his respects to Kaine and former Governor Doug Wilder, who has also endorsed his candidacy. He also said that he will be helped by Mark Warner being on the ticket with him if he is the nominee in November. Im just going to hang on to his coattails, Obama said.
Obama said Virginians are hungry for a new direction. People in Virginia just want to turn the page, Obama said.