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UPDATED: Democrats to gather in Richmond for low-key Jefferson-Jackson dinner

Anita Kumar

Each year, candidates seeking higher office in Virginia host hospitality suites after the Democrats' annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

But so far, only state Sen. Mark Herring of Loudoun County is hosting one after the black-tie fundraiser Saturday night in Richmond.

We hear Herring is considering a run for attorney general in 2013, but in an interview this week he said that 2013 is a "long way off" and that he's focused solely on his re-election to the Senate next year and being the best senator he can be.

With no statewide races on the ballot and no A-list speaker, this year's JJ is slated to be ones of the most low key in years.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be the keynote speaker at the dinner. State Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong of Henry also will address the Democratic activists.

Virginia Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner are expected to attend. The state's three Democratic freshmen congressmen -- U.S. Reps. Gerry Connolly, Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye -- are hosting an event before the dinner

J. Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, said Webb and Warner should be "ashamed" for even considering attending instead of staying in Washington.

"When Jim Webb and Mark Warner should be in Washington, D.C., working for Virginia, they're in Richmond, palling around with well-heeled Democratic donors, pressing the flesh and hoping to pull in a few more dollars for their friends," he said.

No word on whether former governor and current Democratic National Committee chairman and Richmond resident Tim Kaine will stop by. Or whether future gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe will be there, but it would be surprising if he wasn't given the way he has been zipping around the state lately. (And who can forget the 39 tables he bought at last year's JJ in addition to hosting a massive after-party?)

The Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the largest fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Virginia each year, attracts thousands of activists from across the state.

This year, Democrats postponed the annual event from February until March, the weekend after the legislative session ended. It's unclear if legislators who just left town last weekend will head back to Richmond for the event.

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.

UPDATE 2:37 p.m.: Terry McAuliffe has checked in to say that he will definitely be in attendence at Saturday's dinner.

By Anita Kumar  |  March 19, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , Glenn Nye , James Webb , Mark Warner , Rick Boucher , Terry McAuliffe , Timothy M. Kaine , Tom Perriello  
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