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Democrats tap Minnesota's Sen. Klobuchar for Jefferson-Jackson dinner

Anita Kumar

Three years ago, Virginia Democrats recruited then-Sen. Barack Obama to speak at their party's annual black-tie Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

Two years ago, they had their party's two candidates for president -- Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Last year, it was former president Bill Clinton.

This weekend, the Democrats announced that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be their speaker at the dinner next month -- not exactly the same caliber of the past few years, but what do you expect when there's no presidential election in full swing or sitting Democratic governor in the state?

Klobuchar became the first elected female senator from Minnesota in 2006 and is known in the Senate for her work in the areas of consumer protection and law enforcement.

"Amy Klobuchar is a great partner with me in the Senate on issues ranging from expanding broadband to supporting our small businesses," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement. "She also happens to be one of the funniest people in the Senate, and I can't wait to hear her message to Virginia Democrats."

The Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the largest fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Virginia each year, attracts thousands of activists from across the state. The year Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together, the event had to be moved to accommodate the record crowd. Democratic elected officials will be on hand, as well as anyone considering a run this year or in future years.

This year, Democrats postponed the annual event from February until March 20, the weekend after the legislative session ends.

The new date allows Democrats to avoid Republican criticism that they are breaking a state law that forbids members of the General Assembly from raising money during the regularly scheduled legislative session.

Party spokesman Jared Leopold said the event wasn't postponed to avoid the criticism, but privately some Democratic legislators say they told party officials they didn't want to give the GOP any ammunition this year.

Leopold say they wanted more time to put the event together given the transition in the governor's mansion to the first Republican in eight years. This year's dinner will coincide with a weekend of activities, including grass-roots training for many newly elected local committee chairmen.

Democrats argue that attendance at the dinner is allowed anytime -- even during session -- because they are raising money for the party, not themselves.

By Anita Kumar  |  March 6, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate , Terry McAuliffe , Timothy M. Kaine  
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