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Celebrating Grassroots Victory

Mount Vernon Democrats celebrate party's resurgence in the 2005 election.

This Saturday, as night fell on one of the warmest January days in the area’s history, the Democratic leadership of Mount Vernon gathered on Karen Stalling’s deck to address some of the hundreds of volunteers whose contributions to the Democratic Party’s resurgence has rippled beyond the boundaries of the district.

“Jim Webb would not have been able to win this state if it had not been for the 8th Congressional District and Northern Virginia,” said Rep. Jim Moran, who represents the 8th Congressional District. “That had an enormous, profound impact on our country, and of course the world.”

The strong support for Jim Webb in Northern Virginia led to one of the biggest upsets in the 2005 Senate elections. If Republican incumbent George Allen had won as expected, Republicans would have retained control of the Senate. Webb’s victory gave Democrat’s a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and control of both houses of Congress. In Mount Vernon, only Westgate, Allen’s home precinct, favored the Republican in the Senate race.

State Senator Toddy Puller (36th), State Delegates Kris Amundson (44th), David Englin (45th), Mark Sickles (43th) and Brian Moran (46th), Fairfax County Supervisors Gerry Connolly (Chairman, At-Large) and Gerry Hyland (Mount Vernon), Mount Vernon School Board Member Dan Storck and Andy Hurst, a member of the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee (MVDCC) and a challenger to Tom Davis, the incumbent Republican who retained his 11th District Congressional seat, all attended the party celebrating the Democratic victory.

And as reminders of this year’s looming General Assembly races, State Senate hopefuls Greg Galligan and George Barker, who are running for the 39th District seat held by Republican Jay O’Brien, also joined the Democrats on the deck, which was festooned with blue “Vote for James Webb balloons.”

Many of the politicians had special praise for Scott Surovell, the chairman of the MVDCC, and the rest of the committee leadership. Hyland, who gets most of his office work done after midnight, recalled sending Surovell an email at 2 a.m. Minutes later, he had a reply in his inbox.

“My God,” Hyland remembered thinking, “another crazy.”

HYLAND SAID that while making the rounds of polling places on election day, he saw the results of the committee’s organization: new volunteers, every poll staffed from opening until closing and unprecedented enthusiasm. “In the 19 years I’ve done that, I’ve never experienced what I experienced this year.”

Connolly described the attitude of Democrats when he arrived in the county 30 years ago. He said his neighbors used to whisper, “We think we’re the only Democrats on this street.” Now standing on a deck crowded with elected Democrats, Connolly credited his party’s grassroots organizers. “We’ve built it one block at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one precinct at a time.”

Surovell said the MVDCC’s mailing list has been built up to about 700 names. In the last election, Mount Vernon’s Democratic volunteers not only staffed every polling place in their district, they staffed three in Lee District as well. Stallings said they threw the party to thank volunteers for their work in the last election, “and to let them know there’s more to do.”

“It’s so awesome!” said Laura Sonnenmark, The MVDCC’s vice-chairman for the 11th district and Westgate precinct captain. “I feel that on the national stage, as well as the local, there’s a change coming.”

“We just over-celebrate. We can’t get over it.”