Gerry Connolly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day event has grown from a small gathering that was held in his home during the 90’s to a great event that brings Northern Virginia residents together to enjoy a festive occasion. This year was no different as at least 1,000 people came out to show their support for Gerry Connolly as he officially announced he was running for reelection. What I think is important to note here is that the crowd was extremely diverse group of people who were truly united behind Gerry’s candidacy and were eager to do what they could to help him win another term in Congress. This solidarity and support for Gerry’s campaign should definitely be viewed as a good thing for his candidacy because it shows the support that he has obtained from all across the 11th District, but last night’s event was also in sharp contrast to the events that were held by the two Republican candidates fighting for the right to run against him in November.
Pat Herrity appears to have liked Gerry’s idea of having a St. Patrick’s Day party so much that he held a St. Patrick’s Day party at the Springfield Country Club on Tuesday evening (yes, he couldn’t even manage to hold his St. Patrick’s Day party on St. Patrick’s Day). There has been some controversy in the number of people who attended the event as the independent reports all suggested that only 250 or less could manage to come out to the event, but Herrity’s campaign didn’t quite like these numbers so they sent out an updated number of 400. That move reeks of Herrity trying to compensate for the relatively low attendance, but I’ll be extremely generous and split the difference and say there might have been 325 people there.
Keith Fimian also recently held his kickoff in Fairfax at Brion’s Grille, which is an establishment right across the street from GMU and was a student hangout when I was at Mason. Fimian’s kickoff event there might have reached a crowd of 100 people. From what I’ve heard, however, even that is stretching it. Nonetheless, video from the event shows that he decided to use the event as an opportunity to not only go after the Democrats but to bash his opponent in the Republican primary (Herrity) as well. What this means is that I was absolutely correct when I wrote a post suggesting that this was going to be a bloody Republican primary. Not only are the candidates and their supporters attacking one another, but the low turnout at the campaign kickoffs for the Republicans also suggests that there’s not too much excitement about their campaigns. After all, even if you combine the number of people at both of the Republican events, they still weren’t even half the size of the event Gerry Connolly had last night.
So while the Republicans are obviously divided about how they want to move forward in the 11th and aren’t showing up to events in large numbers, Gerry is attracting a lot of people to his campaign who are clearly energized and looking forward to participating in grassroots action in support of his candidacy. The passion of his supporters wasn’t only apparent in conversations that I had with people who were there (one of whom told me it took him almost 15 minutes to even find a parking space because the lot was so full), but it was obvious that they really liked what he had to say during his speech. After making his way through the crowd and taking the time to speak with as many people as possible, Gerry spoke about how he’s been working hard to get things done on issues such as equal pay for women, extend SCHIP coverage for children, and the need for health care reform.
For those of you who are interested, I have posted video of Gerry’s speech below. What I think is worth taking away from this event, however, is just how passionate people were about doing their part to make sure Gerry was reelected. This was exciting for me to see because there were so many people at this event who aren’t heavily involved in the political process, but still felt strongly enough about this campaign to come out to the event and show their support for Connolly’s candidacy. In a year when the pundits claim it’ll going to be tough for incumbents, I think the grassroots support that was visible at this event will go a long ways in helping Gerry secure a second term in the House of Representatives.