Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro Dems Paint the Valley Blue
Story by Chris Graham
Creigh Deeds remembered being asked to save the date on his schedule.
“David Bottenfield said we needed to mark off this date, the 16th of August, for Paint the Valley Blue, that we were going to have a little picnic at the Frontier Culture Museum,” Deeds said at last night’s Paint the Valley Blue local Democratic Party fundraiser, which drew nearly 500 people to the biggest political picnic this part of the Valley has seen in years.
“I can tell you this. I’ve been running for office for the past 21 years. I spent 10 years of the House of Delegates, and I represented part of Augusta County. I’ve never in my life seen a crowd like this in Augusta County,” said Deeds, a Bath County state senator who is running for the 2009 Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination.
But first things first. We’re T-minus 80 days and counting to Nov. 4, and a Valley tending toward more bluish hues could portent change in the national political landscape as well.
“I know in the Valley sometimes it’s challenging for Democrats, but I think there’s going to be a lot of independents and Republicans who rally to our cause in this campaign,” said Mark Warner, who had been scheduled to be the headliner for the event, but had to cancel early Saturday due to a basketball injury that had him not in Staunton but staying overnight at the University of Virginia Medical Center for observation.
Warner is considered a key to the effort to add some blue to the political Crayola box in the Shenandoah Valley. The popular former governor is leading another former governor, Republican Jim Gilmore, by a 20-point-plus margin in the Sixth Congressional District in the polls, and the campaigns of Barack Obama for president and Sam Rasoul for Congress are hoping to be able to ride Warner’s coattails in the moderate-conservative Sixth this fall.
“I’m proud to be a Virginia Democrat because it’s a new breed of Democrat. People like a Mark Warner. These fiscally conservative, business-minded Democrats who believe that government has a role, but at the same time, we need to be able to balance a budget. These are the types of Democrats that brought me into this proud party,” Rasoul said in his keynote speech at Paint the Valley Blue.
Obama Virginia campaign manager Mitch Stewart exhorted the Dems in attendance to take ownership in the Obama campaign by being willing to knock on doors in their neighborhoods and talk with their friends and neighbors about Obama and his movement of change.
“This race to us comes down to a very, very simple choice. We can either continue for the next four years the past eight years, or we can make a change. I’m not talking about change for change sake. I’m talking about middle-class families who are struggling right now to afford health care, folks right now who because of the price of gas are struggling to make their commute. People are really, really hurting in this economy,” Stewart said.
“We’ve already seen what the other side is going to do. They’re going to play commercials with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to try to make this election about something completely different from what it is. Sen. Obama was absolutely correct when he asked John McCain, Is that the best you’ve got?” Stewart said. “This election is too important to get sidetracked on silly issues when we have so many important things to discuss and debate. With your help, when other issues like that come up, you’re going to spend five minutes talking to your neighbor, talking to your friend, talking about Barack Obama, and given your testimony why they should come on board and support Barack Obama.”
The energy at the little picnic at the Frontier Museum impressed upon Deeds that “there is something going on, not just in America at large, not just in Virginia at large, but in the Valley.”
“They’re tired of paying $4 a gallon for gasoline. They’re tired of the engagement in the Middle East that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of purpose. They’re tired of an economy that sends tens of thousands of jobs overseas. They’re tired of the uncertainty in our markets right now that have created foreclosure crises all over Virginia and all over this country. It’s time to restore hope. It’s time to restore promise. It’s time to restore opportunity,” Deeds said.
Links to local news coverage of Paint the Valley Blue