Another big winner was Rep. Gerry Connolly because this once again proved to be a big event and attracted over 1,000 people to Fairfax, VA from all over the Commonwealth. As I was chatting with some of his staff members towards the end of the event, there was a steady stream of people who were coming up to shake hands and have their photos taken with Gerry. These weren't just photo ops, however, as I saw many people from various groups and walks of life talking with Gerry about the various issues people believed were important. In other words, he was taking the time to listen to everyone who had something to say and not just the top dollar donors.
While I believe Mike Signer and Gerry Connolly were the big winners of the night, most of the conversation has been focused on the straw poll results in the gubernatorial race. In actuality, most of the discussion in the blogosphere (from people who support all three of the candidates and those who are neutral) has been about how it turns out that Terry McAuliffe had his donors buy 400 tickets so that he could give them away for free to people so that he'd have a strong showing in the straw poll. The Washington Post's Amy Gardner even weighed in on the subject by writing the following:
If nothing else, the vote sprinkled a healthy pinch of fish food into Virginia's political aquarium. McAuliffe outshined his rivals in both organization and spirit at the event, arranging for donors to purchase 400 tickets for his guests, staffing the party with 60 paid campaign workers and prompting the loudest cheers when he spoke to the crowd.Whether or not Terry having his big time donors buy up the tickets violates the spirit behind a straw poll, I think the sad thing is that it offended enough people that the discussion has turned from the actual issues that attendees of the event and the candidates were talking about last night -- something that would be much more valuable to the candidates, the Democratic Party, and Virginians in general. I heard others express the same thing after Terry when people complained about Terry's campaign busing people into the JJ Dinner and putting over the top decorations on the streets in Richmond.
Guests supporting the other candidates grumbled that McAuliffe's campaign had bought the straw poll; they also noted the number of Maryland and District license plates in the banquet hall's overflowing parking lot.
What I'd like to see come from all of the candidates is detailed plans for what they're going to do if they're elected governor. As I have covered the events on this site before, I've seen it first hand how Brian Moran has been doing that and talking about how he's going to address issues such as home foreclosures, health care in Virginia, energy, etc (I hear a detailed plan on education is on the way). I'd like to see the discussion in the blogosphere focus on these issues as this will help to strengthen our party and make sure that the candidate with the best ideas gets through the primary. With that in mind, what do you check out the speeches of the candidates from last night so that you can get a flavor of what they were discussing instead of just paying attention the results of a straw poll (Here's Creigh Deeds, here's Terry McAuliffe, and here's Brian Moran).