An estimated 1,100 people attended the Virginia Inaugural Ball on Sunday at the Westin Arlington Gateway to celebrate the second inauguration of President Barack Obama — and gear up for key statewide elections in 2013.
"Everybody is happy. Everybody is excited. It's a feel-good moment for everyone who worked on a campaign," Arlington County Democratic Chairman Mike Lieberman told Patch before speaking to the crowd.
"The president is right to feel good about this weekend. You can't help but be optimistic. There's a lot of criticism of our government out there, and some of it is deserved. But there's also a lot of reason for optimism. And coming out of the last election, we see a lot of opportunities."
[See photos from the Virginia Inaugural Ball here.]
Those opportunities will be hard fought, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said. "In Virginia, there's no rest for the weary," he said.
Warner listed the key Democratic elected officials on one hand who were able to win office in the Old Dominion just 13 years ago. "Virginia was considered the reddest of red states. We have come a long way in Virginia," he said.
Warner then challenged the crowd to take back the offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
It was a regular refrain. Freshly minted Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Charniele Herring — a state delegate who represents Alexandria's west end — talked about the constant fight against the "extreme tide" of the Republican agenda. That agenda is "filled with hate and... distilled prejudice," she said.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, who introduced his wife Dorothy as the next first lady of Virginia, told the group, "I'll get out of bed every day fighting for you." Herring talked about the importance of having a governor who "will have our backs."
Virginia's newest senator, Tim Kaine, said he spoke briefly with Obama on election night. Both races had been called, though it wasn't clear which way Virginia would go in the presidential race. The president promised to call him back once this state's returns were known.
He did so three days later. Kaine said he told Obama that Virginia gave him a bigger margin of victory than Florida or Ohio in 2008 and, now, 2012.
"The president didn't say a lot," Kaine said. "But what he did say was, 'Yeah, I'm pretty happy with Virginia right now.' "
The crowd's optimism, in part, was admittedly based on the fact that Obama does not have to worry about running for reelection.
In conversations throughout the night about Obama's next four years, immigration reform nearly always came up first.
"This is the year. We're going to get it done," Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada told Patch. "No piecemeal. It's got to be comprehensive."
Tejada continued: "He's got challenges, but the Republicans have no choice but to come to the table. This is the time for unity."
Jaime Areizaga-Soto, who recently spent time as the Democratic National Committee's deputy director for Hispanic affairs, said he was "cautiously optimistic" immigration reform would finally pass.
He smiled and pointed out 71 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama in 2012.
"I'm really excited about our two senators," he said. "We've got the best tag-team of any state."
Arlington County Planning Commissioner Peter Fallon said he thought the president was willing to work across the aisle, essentially putting the country ahead of politics.
"Divisions exist between parts of Congress and the president, just as they do in the nation, which we saw on Election Day. That hasn't changed," Fallon told Patch. "I can only hope there will be cooperation. It won't be any easier."