Update: Can't do a new post here either, but am sneaking this in below:
Dean draws crowd, hits GOP
A record crowd of more than 1,200 Democrats packed the party's annual crab-feed fundraiser and gave Dean a series of standing ovations, screaming their support for his condemnation of Republicans.
Dean indulged himself in a little nostalgia. "If only we started out in Washington state and not Iowa," he said about the race for the nomination he lost to U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Since becoming chairman of the party, Dean has said he won't run for president in 2008. Instead, he says he's working to broaden the party's support in the country. In 2004 the party had presidential-campaign operations in only 20 states, he said, and Democrats can't be a national party without a 50-state strategy.
He cited recent Democratic wins in statewide and local races in solid Republican states as a sign the party can win converts.
"If we can win in Mississippi, if we can win in Alabama, if we can win in Utah, Democrats can win everywhere in America," he said.
Dean is the former governor of Vermont. He ran an insurgent presidential campaign in 2004, setting records for raising money online and exciting large crowds across the country. But he did poorly in the primaries and caucuses and eventually dropped out when Kerry appeared to secure the nomination.
Dean found early support for his campaign in Washington state. The state party chairman at the time, Paul Berendt, was the first state chairman to endorse Dean.
Dean gave Monday's crowd an updated version of his stump speech. On the question of budget deficits Dean said, "You can't trust Republicans with your money."
Dean said recently that America can't win the war in Iraq. He was an early and ardent opponent of the war, but Monday night he kept his comments in line with the Democratic mainstream, saying President Bush and Republicans have not told the truth about the reasons for the war.
"They have not told the truth, and it is time for them to go," Dean said.
In the past, the most Democrats have raised at their annual event at St. Martin's University was $43,000. State party Chairman Dwight Pelz said this year's event raised at least $70,000.
There were distinct state and national views of the party on view.
"The Democratic Party rules Washington state," Pelz said in warming up the crowd. The party holds the governor's office, most of the statewide offices, a majority of the state House and Senate, a majority of the U.S. House delegation and both U.S. Senate seats.
But U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, reminded Democrats that Republicans control Washington, D.C.
"We are living under the hand of George Bush and his junta," he said to great applause."
Update II: Back on the cold hard ground, here's more of what I couldn't post or send after my lap top went local in Hawaii:
“There’s a culture in the Republican party of corruption back in Washington, D.C.,” state chairman Dwight Pelz said Monday night, just before the buffet dinner. “There is going to be a higher turnout (tonight) because of Dean.”
The Democrats and their message “haven’t been clear for a while,” Saint Martin’s University student Lennon Bronsema said.
“It’s been in the mud. It was a bad thing to be called a Democrat.”
“It’s turning around,” he said. “The Republicans are shooting themselves, and more people are listening to what the Democrats have to say.”
About 1,000 people registered for the day’s events, and at least 200 more showed up for the crab feed, raising about $70,000, said party spokesman Viet Shelton.
He said a previous record of around $43,000 was set in 2004.
Dean was the featured speaker at the annual event. He was joined onstage by Gov. Chris Gregoire, State Auditor Brian Sonntag, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, all six Democratic congressmen and, from the state Legislature, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.
Former Gov. Booth Gardner also made brief remarks.
Dean, addressing the crowd, said the party’s new “50-state strategy” of campaigning in all states, not just swing states, already is paying off. He cited recent Democratic wins in local elections in traditionally Republican states.
“If we can win in Mississippi, Alabama and Utah, Democrats can win anywhere in America,” he said. “We’re not going to win in 2028 if we don’t go and stand there right now.”
‘Telling the truth’
Dean, addressing the perception of a lack of focus in the Democrat’s message, described a multipoint platform for Democrats, including a commitment to developing the renewable energy industry, a universal health care system and rebuilding national security by “telling the truth to our allies.”
“We will restore honesty and integrity to the United States of America,” he said, echoing George W. Bush’s promises to restore “honesty and integrity to the White House” during the 2000 campaign.
Though many Democrats in attendance mentioned their anger at the White House and Congress over issues including the handling of the Iraq War, the budget deficit and the recent eavesdropping controversy, many came to see the former presidential candidate, who rose to prominence in 2004 with a grassroots campaign and his stance against the Iraq War.
Grassroots still was his answer to people who approached him in a receiving line, where women kissed his cheek, men shook his hand, and a few handed him memorabilia to sign.
“It’s still about getting the vote out,” Dean told one well-wisher, who gave him a hug. “It’s not about big TV. It’s about knocking on doors.”
Sherri Goulet of the Thurston County Progressive Network said she and several others wearing “Dean for America” T-shirts primarily appeared to see the former presidential candidate, who she said brought many progressives to the Democratic party, along with presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
Swaying the skeptics
She said that having a strong progressive wing helps include people who are skeptical of Democrats, saying it adds strength to the local party.
“In Thurston County, we have a terrific Democratic party,” she said.
Dean also met privately with party leaders and with state College Democrats and Young Democrats.
Walker Lindley, a student at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, said he was energized by Dean’s address to younger Democrats.
He said the speech and question-and-answer session were equal parts pep rally and practical advice.
“I feel like the Democrats have been sitting down and taking it for so long,” Lindley said.
Martin Moore, a political science junior at Saint Martin’s University and founder of his school’s Democrat Donkey Club, said young party members were excited “that a national figure is right here in front of us.”
Moore said the school’s young Democrats were equally excited two years ago, when they were visited by Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.
“Someone that you see only through the newspaper, you have the ability to talk with them,” he said. “We young people don’t get the chance to do that often.”
“I think by taking the time to talk to us, he showed us that our opinion matters,” said Crystal Saili, the club’s president.
The event also featured training sessions for the precinct committee
officers, who organize on a local level.
Longtime precinct committee officer Vernon Huffman of Everett, who said he is a lifelong Democrat, said he was excited about new resources available, especially a voter database that would help local campaigners.
“We’re working with the data in a way that we never have before,” he said. “We’re well-organized this year. It’s better than it’s ever been.”
Thanks to Dina Johnson for some great photos of the event.