Scenes from the JJ Dinner
Post staff writers Tim Craig, Anita Kumar and Sandhya Somashekhar attend the annual Jefferson Jackson Day dinner and sent along some of their observations, sightings and tidbits.
Va. Gov. Timothy Kaine, who endorsed Sen. Barack Obama in February of 2007, introduced the Democratic senator from Illinois. Obama said, "And today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say that it is time to turn the page. We won Louisiana, and Nebraska, and the state of Washington, and I believe that we can win in Virginia on Tuesday if you're ready to stand for change." Read a transcript of Obama's prepared remarks.
Barack Obama states his case for the democratic nomination at the Jefferson Jackson dinner Saturday night in Richmond, Va.
Mark Warner's wife, Lisa Collis, introduced the former governor of Virginia. Warner is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner (R). Read a transcript of Warner's prepared remarks.
Hillary Clinton makes an impassioned plea to Virginia democrats at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Va.
Obama won - the sign war anyway.
At the Jefferson-Jackson dinner at the Siegel Center, Obama signs far outnumbered Clinton ones. The most obvious example were the huge silver letters that spelled out "OBAMA" on both sides of the dinner section.
It wasn't bias, Democratic party officials said. Each camp had free reign this morning to put up whatever signs they wanted. Obama's apparently had a little more zeal for placards.
Virginia's Democratic elite - Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former governors Mark Warner and L. Douglas Wilder - held a press conference while guests dined on steak and salmon. Only U.S. Sen. Jim Webb was missing.
"It's a new day for the Democratic party," Kaine said.
The room was adorned with blue and white Mark Warner signs on one wall and red, blue and white Obama signs that say "Change We Can Believe In" and "Stand for Change."
"I think we've shown that we know how to win and we know how to govern," said Warner, the likely Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate this year.
Kaine and Wilder endorsed Obama but Warner has declined to support anyone. He said tonight he was focused on his own race and he would campaign with either Clinton or Obama.
The three governors talked about the momentum in the race and how excited they were that Virginia was playing such an instrumental role in the presidential race.
"Nothing has been like this campaign in America and we are part of the venue," said Wilder, now the mayor of Richmond.
Tonight's menu: 3,500 people paid for dinner. They are sitting at tables on the floor of the Siegel Center, which is the Virginia Commonwealth basketball arena. They are eating sirloin steak and pan seared tuna, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and green beans and classic cheesecake with raspberry sauce.
In the bleachers above the floor, another 2,500 people will be seated, each supporting their candidate. They do not eat.
At a VIP reception, Hillary Clinton supporters reflected on the sea of Obama posters, t-shirts and pins around the Siegel Center.
"The Hillary people got a late start," lamented Charlene Bickford, 63, of Arlington, wearing a pin with the former first lady. "I'm kicking myself at this point that we didn't do enough organizing early on."
Ronald Cline Jr. a teacher from Louisa County, said he felt it was less evidence of a groundswell for Obama and more a function of the venue.
"This is a college, and young people are for Obama," said Cline, 37.
6:15 p.m. inside the hall.
Before the dinner officially began, guests mingled at four receptions. The largest was held in one of the center's gyms where hundreds of people sipped on beer and wine.
Tony Mastalski of Fredericksburg said the crowd at this year's dinner was twice as large as last year when the speakers included Kaine, Warner, Webb and Obama. Mastalski, who helped draft Webb for US Senate two years ago, is supporting Obama.
"Simply, I think he exihibits leadership," he said. "I vote for leadership."
Supporters of the candidates spilled out onto Broad Street, one of Richmond's major throughfares. Cars honked their horns at supporters. Police officers on bikes watched over the crowds and traffic.
Vendors wandered through the crowd selling Clinton and Obama T-shirts and buttons.
Huge speakers in front of the center blared music including Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen songs.
Next door to the convention center, the Subway sandwich shop was enjoying a brisk businesses as JJ dinner guests stopped for a bite before heading into long security lines. Some guests were wearing business suits and evening dresses while other were wearing jeans and flip flops in the unusually warm weather. Almost everyone was wearing a sticker or a button.
Off to the side, separate from the others, was a group of Mark Warner supporters chanting "Warner" and carrying blue and white signs for the U.S. Senate candidate.
Anderson Sharp traveled from Lynchburg to take part in the festivities outside the center. "We're supporting our girl," Sharp said, waving a Clinton sign. Though she was outnumbered by the Obama supporters, Sharp said she was savoring being part of one of closest contests for the Democratic nomination in decades.
"It isn't the numbers, it's the power behind it," Sharp said.
Charlotte Grier, 48, showed up outside the Siegel Center with her dog, who was wearing a "Team Hillary" sweater.
"It's good to see so many people out supporting the Democratic Party," Grier said. "I've always voted Republican. I'm very excited to vote Democratic this year."
Kristen Smith, 19, of Virginia Beach and Lauren Lauderdale, 21, of Falls Church, were also part of Clinton's rally squad. But Smith and Lauderdale said they actually planned to vote for Obama Tuesday.
"I'm ready for change," said Smith, as she waved her Clinton sign. "Hillary just gave us tickets, but we're for Obama. We're students so we don't have a lot of money to pay our way in." Lauderdale then said, "Yeah, let's put our signs down."
---Anita Kumar and Tim Craig
Hundreds of rowdy Clinton and Obama supporters held dueling impromptu marches in the street in front of the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Clinton supporters were outnumbered but still vocal chanting "Hillary" and "Ready to Lead" while waving blue signs and wearing stickers.
"She's been there," said Carol Cross, who drove down from 0akton. "She's been working it since she got of Yale."
Cross and two friends have been volunteering making calls at Clinton's Arlington headquarters for two months.
Just down the street, Obama supporters banged on drums and chanted "O-bama" and "Yes, we can."
Virginia and Ray Scher of Caroline County were supporting former Sen. John Edwards but switched to 0bama when Edwards dropped out. The couple said they did so because 0bama seemed the best candidate to carry on Edward's message of helping the poor. "We're hopeful the country will have more economic equality between people," said Virginia Scher in between chants.
"Virginia is Obama country," said Hugh Hart, a political science major at VCU who was carrying a megaphone to tell the crowd "This Tuesday Barack Obama will win Virginia and then he will win the country."
Nearby, Tempral Newbill, a bartender from Roanoke wearing an evening gown, watched the two groups of supporters. She was a supporter of Edwards until he dropped out of the race and now is undecided. "I'm here to hear something to sway me tonight." She is most interested in learning their stances on healthcare and economic fairness.
Dozens of supporters gathered at a suite on the 17th floor of the Marriott Hotel at a fundraising reception for congressional candidate Leslie L. Byrne (D) of Fairfax
They snacked on cheese and crackers, chocolate chip cookies and M&Ms while sipping beer and wine.
Byrne, wearing a black pantsuit, vowed to work for universal healthcare and economic justice. "We're going to undo in Congress what Bush has done,'' she said to applause.
Guests include state Sen. Chap Petersen, who ran against Byrne in 2005, state Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), chairman of the Democratic party in Fairfax County and a diverse crowd of young and old from around the state include southside Virginia.
"She's a great gal," said Suzette Matthews, former chairwoman of the Fauquier County Democratic party. "She has a lot of experience...she's family to us."
The Marriott served as a makeshift JJ headquarters. Candidates for Congress set up tables in the lobby to speak to potential supporters and hand out campaign literature. Almost everyone in the elevators and milling around the hotel had a sticker supporting Clinton, Obama or U.S. Senate candidate Mark R. Warner. Lines of people waited to board black vans to head down Broad Street to the center. Police escorted hundreds of protestors down the street past the hotel calling for fair reform of the nation's immigration laws.
More than 300 jubilant Obama supporters have gathered three blocks north of the Siegel Center getting ready to parade their support for the Illinois senator through the streets of Richmond.
The group, which spans both sides of one of Richmond's busiest streets, will be led by a marching band. Some members of the group are carrying 10-foot high O-B-A-M-A signs. And judging from the continuos honks from passing cars, Obama could be in for a good day Tuesday among Richmond voters.
The crowd is chanting "O-BAMA - O-BAMA." And "yes we can."
Earlier, the Hillary Clinton "visibility rally" outside the Siegal Center got off to a bad start. A rental truck carrying the campaign signs struck a BMW driven by an Obama supporter, causing considerable damage.
"This just makes us even stronger Obama supporters," said Rich Garries of Hampton Roads, as he looked at his car.
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