February 7, 2009
Bill Clinton and three candidates for Governor are set to rock Virginia Democrats' big party Saturday night. The former President is the keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Richmond.
It's a night of dinner, drinks, and celebration, but for the three Democratic candidates running for Governor, it's all about getting back to business as they rally supporters.
Lavishly funded newcomer Terry McAuliffe showed off his monetary advantage with light displays and hundreds of signs.
"The fact that he built a voter base, a brand new DNC and basically got new democrats...means he got us where we are now," says McAuliffe supporter, Craig Nehall.
"I think it's about grassroots support," said McAuliffe, (D) Gubenatorial Candidate. "We have a standing room only behind me of hundreds and hundreds of brand new grassroots volunteers who've signed up to work on the campaign. This is about firing up the grassroots."
But you can't overlook the importance of the big donors. About 3,000 Democrats attended, paying at least $175 a seat.
The Democrats may need the money in the race for Governor. The latest Rasmussen polls show Republican Bob McDonnell with a three to nine point lead over the democrats.
"I was ahead amongst the democrats and that's where I want to be," says Brian Moran, (D) Gubernatorial Candidate. "This is about winning in November."
"I don't pay any attention to polls because it doesn't matter," adds McAuliffe. "I've been in the race three weeks so if I'm even in the ball game that's pretty good."
Creigh Deeds is ranked last in the polls so far, but his campaign is still going strong. The State Senator announcing he's opening an office in Charlottesville.
"Charlottesville puts me closer to my home base and closer to the people that know me best," said Sen. Creigh Deeds, (D) Gubernatorial Candidate.
No matter what happens this November, it's all about enjoying the party for these Virginia democrats.
"This is a blast for someone whose lived in Virginia a while," said dinner guest Beth Bortz. It's been a long time coming since Virginia was a blue state."
A state party spokesman estimates the dinner raised about $700,000 for the Democrats.
House and Senate Republicans for several years have unsuccessfully sought to rewrite the state's law to outlaw attendance at the fundraising event by elected state Democrats.
Democratic lawmakers and the governor say it doesn't apply because they're raising money for the party, not themselves.