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Virginia Democrats Prepare to 'Guard the Change'

State party convention drew more than 2,000 to the city of Fairfax this weekend.

FAIRFAX — Perhaps U.S. Sen. Mark Warner put it best: "In 2008, we changed the guard. In 2012, we need to guard the change."

More than 2,000 Democrats from across the commonwealth descended on George Mason University this weekend for the Democratic Party of Virginia's State Convention. The gathering served as part pep rally, part organizational meeting as activists mobilize for November.

Party leaders had similar messages, previewing what they will try to hammer home while Virginia is in the national spotlight as a battleground state for the U.S. presidency. That message, they say, is that the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party has made this country, and this state, unrecognizable and infringes on the rights of gays, women and minorities.

"The degree of extremism, violent language and over-the-top nuttiness in this election might be sharper than it has been in a very long time," said former Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for U.S. Senate.

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Kaine, who headlined Saturday's convention, described what he saw as Virginia GOP attacks on without government interference. He criticized who want to adopt.

"These are battles that the other side has decided to put front and center, and this is what they want to fight about. They're not the battles because Democrats put them on the table," Kaine said.

"They're choosing the most divisive wedge issues that drive people apart when we need to be coming together."

Members of Virginia's congressional delegation each took a shot at the GOP. U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly said government intrusion into women's reproductive health was "not a conservative value" and called it "un-American." U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott chastised national Republican leadership for supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and cuts to health benefits that affect the country's poor and elderly.

"Their priorities are millionaires over Medicare," Scott said.

And U.S. Rep. Jim Moran declared: "We are at war again."

"We are engaged in a conflict of worldviews, the deepest of philosophies, and really the nature of man," Moran said. "The Republican Party of today is ready to impose on us a Darwinian view of the world, turning us into a survival-of-the-fittest society and winner-take-all economy."

The Republican Party of today has "dangerous and radical notions of limited government that even Ronald Reagan wouldn't recognize," Moran said. The party is prepared to implement "a radical redistribution of income" from the poorest among us to the benefit of the wealthiest Americans, he said.

Moran quoted the Gospel of Matthew — "For it is with the least of my brothers and sisters that you will find me" — and added, "That is the heritage of our nation. And it must be the legacy of our political party."

All Eyes on the Old Dominion

Virginia has evolved into a critical battleground state in the 2012 election.

President Barack Obama carried Virginia four years ago — the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since 1964 — and party officials have been kicking themselves ever since as Republicans have made steady gains in state and local elections.

The timing of those gains, though, Democrats like to say, has coincided with the transformation of the GOP at the hands of the tea party movement — and has given voters perhaps the clearest choice they've had in a while.

"You are the front line of Virginia's troops in the battle for the soul of our nation," Moran told the crowd.

Outgoing U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, whom the party honored Friday night, gave a somber, understated farewell speech — recapping his work on the G.I. Bill and criminal justice reform. And ex-Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, ever the showman, touted the Obama administration's successes .

The Democratic Party of Virginia elected two DNC committeewomen — Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris-Crouse Mays from Bedford and political consultant Mame Reiley of Alexandria — and two DNC committeemen.

The race for the latter was hotly contested, and a close vote almost forced the entire crowd to reconvene in a nearby hotel. Staff at GMU's Center for the Arts began clearing the stage while the need for a series of runoff votes emerged as the convention went into overtime.

State party Chairman Brian Moran wrestled with the audience to keep it in order as delegates demanded a final, deciding voice vote — though the matter was ultimately settled when recent Arlington-to-Alexandria transplant Ben Tribbett, the blogger behind Not Larry Sabato, withdrew his name while reserving his right to appeal the outcome of the day's voting.

That left the two committeemen as longtime party volunteer Frank Leone of Arlington, who was reelected to his second term, and Hampton Vice Mayor George E. Wallace. Leone, who won the first round of voting outright, runs the political blog DemRulz.

The state party will send 132 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this year. Most had already been elected at the congressional district level; about 39 of them were selected Saturday.

"It was just a contentious election," Brian Moran later told Patch. "But it all ended up very well."

Kaine: Don't Give In

Overall, delegates seemed pleased with Saturday's turnout, many taking the time to point out the number of attendees from the Hampton Roads area and the far southwest of the state. Local delegates were glad to see the convention land in Northern Virginia for the first time in recent memory.

"This is one of the most exciting things I've been to," said Mike Signer, an Arlington man expected to announce a bid for state attorney general. "Any time Democrats can get to know each other and get excited, it's good. It's all going to come down to Virginia."

As the convention worked its way into the afternoon and convention-goers got restless, Kaine urged the crowd to stay positive.

The Republican Party is not what it once was, he said, and in the last few years has become full of "doom-and-gloomers, (who are) caustic, always on the attack."

"We're proud of our country. We know our best days are ahead of us. We're not going to give in to the doom and gloom. We're not going to give in to the Super PACs," he said, as the crowd stood for its final ovation. "We are going to be positive and optimistic. We are fighting for important values in 2012. And I'm proud to fight with you. If we fight hard … we will celebrate big victories in America and right here in the commonwealth of Virginia."

Read more: Blue Virginia's play-by-play account of the convention

Looking ahead: The Republican Party of Virginia's state convention is slated for June 16, though no location is specified on its website.

Jsmith June 04, 2012 at 10:52 AM
They're guarding the change because they spent all the dollars.
Jsmith June 04, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Exactly right!
T Ailshire June 04, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Conservatives, yes. Theocrats, no. That's part of the problem -- those who proudly call themselves "conservatives" are as regulatory as the liberals. They simply want to regulate different things.
RJ June 04, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Did President Barack Obama "steal" $500 billion from Medicare? Reality: This is mostly a false: The bill doesn't take money out of the current Medicare budget but, rather, it attempts to slow the program's future growth, curtailing just over $500 billion in anticipated spending increases over the next 10 years. Medicare spending will still increase, however. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects Medicare spending will reach $929 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009.
RJ June 04, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Ha!, you really think Romney is a conservative? If Romney wins he will be about two centimeters to the right of Obama.
R Johnson June 04, 2012 at 12:37 PM
It seems the Democrats want to guard the debt, guard the unemployment, guard the gendercide against girls, guard the importing of foreign oil, guard the taxes, guard the control of big government. Aren't we luckly for their protection. haHa
R Johnson June 04, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Thank the Democrats for spending money to improve the Fairfax economy. Then send them home. We don't need their big government to control our lives and spend our money.
Ryan C Roth June 04, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Such as starting wars off the books? Unfunded Medicare part D? No offsetting to Bush tax cuts? Can't really say the GOP is any better. In fact we could look at Cantor for turning his back on 1.5 trillion in cuts/revenue. Which wouldn't have solved anything but at least a step in the right direction. Vote all of them out.
Ryan C Roth June 04, 2012 at 01:08 PM
We need a 3rd party more now than ever. Jon Huntsman would be that man and would stand a good chance as independants would flock to him. But you have those strong party nuts who vote along party lines rather than vision or the betterment of the country. You look at Huntsman's resume and it trumps both candidates, i.e. he actually has a history of job creation as a governor.
The Convict June 04, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I caught that as well. The statement did seem over the top. Still, it seems like there's more conflict than cooperation between the parties, with most of the conflict coming from the right side of the aisle.
Harry Wiggins June 04, 2012 at 02:30 PM
The PWC Democratic Committee fared better than ever with 2 Presidential electors of Virginia's 13 coming from PWC: Anita White (Gainesville0 and Judy Mastrangeli (Potomac) and sending Keith Scarborough, Antia White, Luke Torian and Babu Lateef to Charlotte as Convention Delegates to re-nominate the President.
julie June 04, 2012 at 02:31 PM
America has moved so far to the right it's scarey. Read the international news lately? People are now being killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen, by airstrikes launched by us, for doing what the Occupy Movement is doing in the United States, opposing corrupt regimes.
RJ June 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Fairfax economy is built on the DOD budget. Dems want to reduce it, Reps what to grow it. So recalculate.
Suzanne S June 04, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Conservatives (or the right) are for fiscally responsible, limited government which is hardly what we have now. If you equate war and killing with conservatism, you need to go look at how many millions where killed by big centralized government types like Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Pol Pot, etc… And when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980’s they killed untold number of Afghans. Just Google: Soviet Atrocities Afghanistan...
C.D. June 04, 2012 at 04:28 PM
You have to wonder what financial antics J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, etc. would be pulling if Occupy wasn't in their faces.
Jim Daniels June 04, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Interesting a party (the Republicans) are for something they never practice...
C.D. June 04, 2012 at 04:41 PM
There are no armies, battles, warfighting, or anything related to warfare in the New Testament. Nor does the New Testament condone bad behavior. So how have our leaders, who profess to be "Christians", become engaged in constant warfighting?
Thad Hunter June 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
@RJ: The second half of your list makes we wonder if you posted this comment from your pda while attending the convention -- rest assured, we like good pizza. We have no problem with passionate rhetoric, we call that free speech. I only point out the double standard on your side who try to dismiss their opponents with accusations like, let's see, "violent language and over-the-top nuttiness" instead of countering with facts. But don't take my word for it; subscribe to Tim Kaine's email list and you will be able to see what the Left is saying first hand. Here's text from one of Kaine's emails last week. How does Moran's statements stack up to this standard? Do you like Kaine's linkage to Memorial Day? That's typical Kaine self-righteousness. I'm told that one of the loudest applause lines at the Republican debate this weekend was when one of my opponents announced, "I'm here to declare war on Tim Kaine and Barack Obama." Think about what that says about our politics. The loudest applause line wasn't about reducing unemployment or growing the economy. It wasn't about educating our kids for the jobs of the future, or even -- on Memorial Day weekend -- remembering the men and women who gave their lives fighting to defend this country in actual wars. The challenges that we're confronting right now are too important to be treated with the same tired, overheated political rhetoric that only seeks to pit us against one another.
Linda Bartlett June 04, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Prior to the French Revolution-- 1789-99- the term liberal as articulated in our founding documents, meant the primacy of the individual over the state. Every single violent regime and mass killing has been carried out by the Left-no exceptions. Fascism, socialism, communism are all statist political philosophies and in the 20th century 100 million died as those systems forced people to be serfs and slaves to the all encompassing centralized government. Obama once opined how operating a democracy is just to hard and restrictive on his power. It is the Obamas of the world that our founding documents were designed to guard against. Last week he promised a couple hundred folks at a rally in Minnesota that if he wins and has the flexibility to promised Putin in Russia, he will give each person $3,000. I understand the appeal he has to the folks who have commented heretofore. Greed and Envy are powerful motivators and that is the basis and the entirety of the Democrat campaign this year. The politically, professionally, and personally reprehensible Jim Moran, the nasty Gerald Connolly, and Timmy Kaine-the man who left absolutely no positive mark on the Commonwealth during his 3 years as governor, are the perfect deliverers of that "green" message of greed and envy.
Jason Spencer (Editor) June 04, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Just wanted to drop in and say I appreciate that this conversation is progressing in a civil manner! When people get passionate about things, sometimes that's difficult to do. So thanks to everyone for showing that you're above the pettiness that these discussions can turn into. To Democrats: I've heard a few complaints about Saturday's delegate selection process, specifically about the slate of delegates suggested by the Obama camp. Want to talk about it? Email jason.spencer@patch.com. To both parties: Are you heading to the Democratic or Republican National Convention this year? If so, please contact your local Patch editor! We'd love to set up a way to get updates from you during this historic election!
1Ronald June 04, 2012 at 07:32 PM
You say "But I do not believe an elective abortion is an inherent right" and yet the unwanted child is the key to rising crime rates and the conspiracy to overpopulate coming full circle. In the end we will always hear, "We didn't do anything wrong. The People did it. The People Wanted it." After there's no longer any need for them to "stir the people up, turn them against each other, sit back, watch, and wait." It will have happened. And it will be irreversible.
1Ronald June 04, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I agree that 3rd Party is the only way to go. Then you had Ron Paul who lied about being Liberterian because he was anti-abortion and promised to outlaw a right that we all gain from, guaranteed by the 9th and 14th Amendments. But, still, in spite of this. Paul was for stopping all meddling in other countries' wars and stopping foreign aid to despots who hate us--and yet the people would not support him. So they wait until the entire bottom falls out and it's too late for anything. The Economists have alreay said it's in China's best interest to pull the plug and when that happens it will be terrible for all of America and her people. If you purchase anything from AU or CA, we've already seen the dollar fall against the Australian dollar and also the Canadian dollar, both of which USED TO BE worth less than the USD. We need to be fighting democracy here in America, at home, not abroad. We are losing many freedoms because people sit and do nothing while the evangelical republican party passes more and more laws against more and more people--none of which pose any harm to any of us, but we use our bridge, road and highway moneys to put and keep them away in jails everywhere. They got away with it then, they're getting away with it now.
T Ailshire June 04, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Jason, what makes this election any more historic than any other? I'd say 2008 was historic in that we elected our first bi-racial president (who then decided not to be bi-racial, but that's another point altogether). Unless a third-party candidate wins, this is not shaping up to be an historic election. I'd like to know what you see that I'm not.
Allie June 04, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Germany, Italy, Japan, and other Fascist states served the interests of huge corporations during WW2.
Uncle Smartypants June 04, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Jason didn't say this election was more historic than any other election; he just said it was historic. Which, of course, it is. That's what history is - a recording of important events.
Billie Lyllton June 05, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Hitler was a Socialist AND a Fascist. The two are not mutually exclusive. As far as serving the interests of huge corporations, that's exactly what our Democrat President is doing right now. With vigor. But only he, not free markets, picks the winners and losers. It's called Cronyn Capitalism, or as some might say, more accurately, Crony Socialism.
RJ June 05, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Nazi ideology denounced many political and economic ideologies and systems as being associated with "parasitical Jewry", such as: democracy, socialism, Marxism, the Enlightenment, liberalism, capitalism, parliamentary politics, industrialisation, and trade unionism. Nazism promoted an economic system that supported a stratified economy with classes based on merit and talent while rejecting universal egalitarianism, retaining private property, freedom of contract, and promoted the creation of national solidarity that would transcend class distinction.
RJ June 05, 2012 at 12:51 PM
@Thad Hunter it was satire.
RJ June 05, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Your statement is historically false.
Allie June 05, 2012 at 01:10 PM
'Merit' in Germany between 1933 and 1945 was based on membership in the National Socialist Party.

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