Virginia’s 8th District Democratic Committee held its annual Kennedy-King dinner last Thursday night, and the overflow crowd of 675 people was roused to Democratic campaign fervor as they listened to Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean.
Dean has come from virtually nowhere to be the early Democratic front-runner in the presidential field that now has nine members. After graduation from Yale, Dean attended medical school in New York. He practiced medicine with his wife, Judy, also a physician, and ran for the Vermont State Legislature in 1982. In 1991, he became governor of Vermont, a position he held for 11 years.
“During that 11 years, we had 11 balanced budgets in Vermont, something that no Republican president of the United States has managed to do in 34 years,” Dean said. “In Vermont, all children under 18 have health care. I can bring that kind of responsible leadership to the rest of the country,” he told the partisan crowd.
Dean has been consistent in his opposition to the war in Iraq, and he reiterated that point Thursday. “How can we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild another country when we have so many needs at home,” Dean said. “It’s time we take back the country from those who have bankrupted it.”
THE MESSAGE resonated with the crowd that gave him six standing ovations.
“He is very much in the mold of Virginia Democrats like Chuck Robb and Doug Wilder,” said Don Beyer of Alexandria, who serves as Dean’s national treasurer. “He believes in fiscal responsibility but also in providing services to those who need them. My wife and I heard him speak in January and decided that we wanted to support him. We made a contribution, and he called and asked if I would be the national treasurer. I was honored to accept," said Beyer, a former lieutenant governor in Virginia.
“I believe in public service and can think of no greater public service than helping to elect the next president of the United States,” Beyer said.
Former city mayor Kerry J. Donley agreed. “I decided to support Howard Dean because he leaves no doubt about where he stands on the issues. He’s right about Iraq. How can we spend millions of dollars there when we have a significant budget deficit here?”
Referring to his fellow Democratic candidates as “Bush Lite,” Dean urged the crowd to support him. “Let’s elect a president that has proven leadership and who can make a real difference,” he said.
Virginia’s Democratic Primary is in February.