Dining with Dems
Local Democrats ride a wave of support at fundraising event.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Energy was high at the Monterey County Democrats’ First Annual Jefferson Jackson dinner Saturday, May 17, at the Hyatt Regency Monterey.
More than 200 people attended the fundraiser, with tickets starting at $99 per head. The money will mainly be used for voter outreach, though some may boost individual campaigns, according to local party chair Vinz Koller. “This is more long-term party building than candidate advocacy,” he says.
With Barack Obama emerging as the probable Democratic Party presidential nominee, and Hillary Clinton clinging to her not-done-yet status, attendees on opposing sides of the Obama-Clinton divide made nice.
Former congressman Leon Panetta warned that party “fault lines” have lost elections. “In the end,” he said, “we have to be for the Democratic nominee.”
The star of the night was San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. The crowd gave the 40-year-old political stud a celebrity welcome when he approached the podium to deliver the keynote address.
Newsom touted his major accomplishments as mayor: implementing universal health care for San Francisco residents up to age 25 and bringing the city’s carbon dioxide emissions to pre-1990 levels. But ultimately, he said, “I will for the rest of my life be that ‘gay marriage mayor from San Francisco.’ And you know what? I couldn’t be more proud.”
(Notwithstanding his rep as a hetero philanderer, Newsom in early 2004 became the first U.S. mayor to sanction same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court nullified the marriages six months later, but a later state Supreme Court decision overturning the state’s gay marriage ban May 15 vindicated Newsom’s early stance.)
“Civil unions are not gay marriage. Marriage is marriage,” Newsom said. “Jenna Bush did not just get a civil union. She got married.”
Central Coast Assemblyman John Laird, who described himself as “not your stereotypical gay guy,” also gave the decision big ups.
Rep. Sam Farr pumped Monterey County's role in the civil rights movement, noting locally raised activist Benjamin Jealous' recent appointment as president of the NAACP. (Ironically, the event featured only one non-white-male speaker, Salinas-mayor-turned-Assemblywoman Anna Caballero.)