On eve of health care vote, Virginia Democrats urged to have 'no fear'
A full minute.
That's how long Democrats attending their party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Richmond Convention Center on Saturday evening stood cheering and shouting after U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) made the evening's first reference to Sunday's big vote in Washington on the health care reform package.
With no statewide race on the ballot in November and no president or former president on the speaking card, there were fewer attendees at this year's annual dinner than at past events. But because of an unexpected quirk in the schedule, the dinner took place the on the eve of Sunday's final showdown vote in the House of Representatives, and the participants had an air of defiant excitement.
Again and again Connolly and fellow Rep. Tom Perriello urged the Democratic activists not to let Republican "tea-partiers" and Fox TV personalities shape the debate on the issue. The Democrats insisted they are not afraid of vows from the GOP that they will regret votes in favor of the plan.
"We need as Democrats to fight back," Connolly told the crowd. "Don't let them scare you into complacency. Rise up! And remind our friends and neighbors why, just over a year ago, we voted for the comprehensive change that we did."
"People didn't send us up there to do what's easy, they sent us up there to do what's right!" said Perriello, who had on Friday indicated his "yes" vote on the bill was conditional on receiving a letter signed by 51 senators pledging to back fixes to the bill through the "reconciliation" process. But to thunderous applause, he made clear Saturday night that he will indeed be voting yes. "I will stand with this president for the kind of change we voted for, for the kind of change we believe in and we will deliver!"
Response was far more tepid from Rep. Glenn Nye, whose office released a statement indicating he will vote "no," even as he delivered a six-minute speech in which he did not mention the topic. As he left the stage, he was greeted by a few calls from the audience to "pass health care now!"
There was the usual assortment of congressional and possibly future statewide candidates on hand to mix and mingle. During his remarks, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner led the 1,100 person crowd in a round of muted applause for last year's defeated once -- and in some cases possibly future -- statewide candidates, all of whom were present: Steve Shannon, Jody Wagner, Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds.
And keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) lived up to her pre-event billing as funny. (Her best line, of her good friend Warner: "He is truly the golden boy. I really want him to come to Minnesota, because you've probably seen our license plates, we're 'the land of 10,000 lakes?' And with 10,000 lakes, he will have plenty of water to walk on.")
But between the walloping at the polls for the party's candidates in November and the political discord over Sunday's big vote, it wasn't really a night for humor. More in line with the theme was Klobuchar's closing.
"Remember, we have no fear," she told them. "No fear."
March 21, 2010; 10:47 AM ET
Categories: Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Gerald E. Connolly , Glenn Nye , James Webb , Jody Wagner , Mark Warner , Rosalind Helderman , Steve Shannon , Terry McAuliffe , Tom Perriello
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