Hundreds of Alexandria Democrats descended here Saturday for the much-anticipated Jefferson-Jackson Day annual dinner, attended by another 6,000 fired-up Virginia political activists. The event raised more than $4 million for the Virginia Democratic Party and was made exceptional this year by the arrival of the two remaining presidential candidates in a hotly contested battle which may stretch out to the nominating convention in August.
Both Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) are intensely vying for the affections of Virginia voters as Tuesdays primary nears. They pulled out all the verbal stops at the annual fundraising dinner to make their case to party faithfuls and get-out-the-voter organizers.
Clinton was first to speak and used her speech at the dinner to unveil her new verbal campaign against 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. “The era of cowboy diplomacy is over.”
State Senator Patsy Ticer of Alexandria, a Clinton supporter, said her experience will give her the edge on Tuesday. She is full of content and commitment to our democratic values, Ticer said.
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 Del. Brian Moran (D-46) and Alexandria Democratic Party Chair Sue Kellom 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 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 does not regret his decision to abandon his presidential bid. He told the crowd that on the night of the New Hampshire primary last month he was just relishing his role as father. “That night I took my daughter and two friends to a Hannah Montana concert,” he said.
Gov. Tim Kaine (D), the first governor to endorse Obama outside of his home state of Illinois, was an early endorser and introduced him to a raucous reception. The Illinois senator was greeted as political rock star as attendees chanted yes, we can and we want change!
Vola Lawson, Alexandria’s former city manager, said she was not surprised at the surge of support for Obama in the state. I sent him a letter and a check the day he announced he was running a year ago, said Lawson, a political icon in Alexandria.
Obama was quick to pay homage to early supporters Kaine and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. He also said that he will be helped by Mark Warner being on the ticket with him if he is the nominee in November. Warner has not endorsed anyone for president, but his wife Lisa Collis Warner is supporting Obama. Im just going to hang on to his coattails, Obama said.
Obama said Virginians are hungry for a new direction. People want to turn the page…I believe we can win in Virginia, he said.