Arlington Democrats held their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner on June 9, a boisterous affair that included impassioned speeches by Gov. Timothy Kaine and Senate candidates Harris Miller and Jim Webb.
The theme of the lively dinner was turning Virginia "blue," and speeches by local and statewide politicians reflected the party's belief that it can reclaim the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, this November.
"There will be a seismic shift" in the election and "we're gonna get back the House," thundered Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) to some of the loudest applause of the night.
More than 450 local Democrats attended the dinner at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Ballston, the fund-raiser's largest attendance in recent years.
"It symbolizes an effort to take both our county and state Democratic Party to a new level of participation and achievement," said Arlington County Democratic Chair Peter Rousselot. "The turnout being so large was an emblem of that."
It also served as an opportunity for undecided voters to hear Miller and Webb speak just before Tuesday's primary. The Arlington Connection went to press before the results were known. The winner will attempt to unseat Sen. George Allen.
Both Miller and Webb played up their Arlington roots. Miller lived in the county for three years before leaving for the confines of neighboring Fairfax.
Webb's election headquarters are situated in Arlington, and the first publicly elected officials to endorse his campaign included Arlington Treasurer Frank O'Leary and Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy.
GOV. KAINE praised the enthusiasm and dedication of Arlington Democrats — saying it was where candidates come to "recharge" their batteries — and thanked the county for giving him more than 74 percent of its votes.
In one of the most poignant moments of the event, Kaine personally delivered the Outreach Award to Voncille Hines, who battled a life-threatening illness last year.
Kaine's "right-hand man" Larry Roberts, a former chairman of the Arlington branch of the party, received the coveted Mary Marshall Outstanding Democrat award.
The night was full of both serious and playful messages. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman urged the audience to work hard to defeat the same-sex marriage constitutional amendment this fall.
"When opponents try to use marriage as a cloak for bigotry, we must say no," he said.
Moran, who gave the most quotable speech of the night, attacked the policies of the Bush administration and called the president a lame duck.
"If you listen carefully you can hear the quacking in the White House, which is kind of dangerous when Dick Cheney is your vice president," Moran joked.
Even if Democrats do grab control of Congress, one thing may not change: the rampant use of earmarks and pork barrel spending to keep constituents happy.
If Moran becomes chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee, he would "earmark the sh—out of it."