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Deeds thanks Dems, exhorts party to keep fighting

Rosalind Helderman

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor defeated by more than 17 points last month, made a surprise visit to the quarterly meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee this morning in Staunton, just over the mountain from Deeds' Bath County home.

Looking rested and wearing an open collar shirt under his blazer, Deeds was greeted warmly by his fellow Democrats and spent long moments huddled with longtime senate pals Mary Margaret Whipple and Dick Saslaw. The crowd of more than 100 gave Deeds a standing ovation when Gov. Tim Kaine recognized Deeds as "one of the finest people I know in public life."

Still, quietly, a few activists said they blame Deeds for the breadth of the party's losses in November, believing his hesitancy to embrace the agenda of Democrats at the national level left the party unenthusiastic about his effort.

Deeds addressed the group in a brief speech, thanking them for their work on his behalf. He said carrying the party's banner was "the great honor" of his life. With passion, Deeds said he continued to believe government should play a role in improving people's lives and told the group to keep fighting on behalf of working people and the poor.

"We lost. I lost. I'll take that responsibility," he said. "But just because you lose an election doesn't mean you are defeated. It does not mean you were wrong. There are still people who are counting on us...We lost an election, but the fight goes on."

Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, who had both been scheduled to appear, remained in Washington where the senate continued to debate health care. Each appeared via video, and other speakers included Kaine, U.S. Rep. Tom Perreillo, Saslaw and House of Delegates minority leader Del. Ward Armstrong.

There was little red meat from the Democrats, who kept the speechifying to a minimum as committee members in snow boots, many of whom had long drives ahead at the meeting's conclusion, eyed the Shenandoah Valley weather warily.

However, the group was hardly despondent over last month's losses. They insisted the party remains in a strong position, with a majority of the state's congressional delegation and both U.S. Senators.

"The one thing they can't change are the demographics of this state," Armstrong said. "This state continues to turn blue."

With many party members convinced November's losses came because Democratic office seekers did not clearly enough set out policy positions that distinguished them from Republicans, the party took the unusual step of adopting a resolution on a policy issue: With little discussion the central committee voted to encourage all of Virginia's Democratic members of Congress to support a health care reform bill that includes a public option.

But there was an acknowledgment that the reform efforts have led to voter anxiety that also might have contributed to Deeds' loss.

"A lot of it was apprehension about what's going on in Washington, make no mistake about it," Armstrong said."People say they want change--right up to the moment it shows up."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 5, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Creigh Deeds , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine , Tom Perriello  
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