05 March 2006

Colorado's Jefferson Jackson Dinner 2006

I attended Colorado Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson dinner yesterday, a relatively modest affair at the Marriott downtown, preceded by a small silent auction, and followed by a Young Dems after party, got a chance to meet Colorado Lib in person, and generally observed the festivities.

Opportunities for networking with politicians and politically influential people were abundant, with a little under nine hundred guests in attendance, including about sixty or seventy elected officials, and just about all of the candidates for federal or statewide office.

Democrat Fern O'Brien has apparently drawn opposition in the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general from a Mr. Johnson, whom it is hard to believe can be serious about his candidacy as he lacks even an ability to issue a press release announcing that he is running prior to the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, less than three weeks in advance of the caucuses.

In further proof that the Lt. Governor is chopped liver, Barbara O'Brien's post, as Bill Ritter's running mate, was not announced as introductions of statewide office candidates were announced.

Heather Barry, the chair of the dinner, opened with a speech full of the self-importance that, alas, is so common to individuals with minor positions in any large organization (which was particularly hard for her to resist, no doubt, in light of her husband's recognition as a rising star at the event), and alas, the Democratic party's fervent opposition to Mussolini style fascism in all its forms was evident as the first proper speech of the evening commenced at about 9:00 p.m. (about two hours after the scheduled start of dinner, and three and a half hours into the event itself). So, you won't get any impressions on the later speeches from me, as baby sitting limitations sent me and mine rushing home a la Cinderella.

But, criticism has to be matched with praise and there is plenty of room for that this year as well. Faren Fleming, who sang the national anthem, was extraordinary, an invocation from Reverend Paul Burleson was charming, and Ken Gordon's podcast was hilarious.

The overall mood of the event was triumphal. The vast majority of politicians in attendance, from the General Assembly, were secure in the ability to accomplish things that comes from being in the majority of both houses of the legislature. An opening announcement of the presence of Stephanie Herseth (recently elected Representative at large in Congress from South Dakota), and keynote address from Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana (preceded by an introduction of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar), served as book end reminders that Democrats can win even in important statewide races in deep red states. (Go to the Denver Post or Colorado Lib to get a summary of Schweitzer's speech).

And, of course, the truth is that no one was paying big bucks to attend the event for an opportunity to indulge at the cash bars, a right to eat a mixed green salad followed by well prepared but small chicken and rice dinner topped off with a light fresh berry with cream dessert, or a chance to listen to a long succession of speeches. This was first a fundraiser, and second an opportunity to interact with the leading figures of the party in and out of public office, and true to form, this activity went on unimpeded for as long as I was there, at least.

While the speeches paraded our "Young Democrat of the Year", Lifetime Achievement Award", "Rising Stars", and "Democrat of the Year", as well as our candidates for public office, behind the scenes aspiring candidates exchange tips on how to be effective in running for public office, General Assembly notables quietly moved into crisis control mode to address the recall petition for Deanna Hanna lodged on Friday which push the question of resignation v. stand and fight into overdrive (as a resignation allows the party to replace a candidate, while a recall which is lost puts the question in the hands of the voters who are, by definition, in a throw the bums out mood), and personal ties to other politicians were renewed in a neutral session to build up political capital for the next time someone needs to ask for some help.

A good time was had by all, and now, it is time for Democrats to roll up their sleeves for a long campaign season ahead.

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