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Virginia Inaugural Ball: 'You Can't Help But Feel Optimistic'

No rest for the weary: Democrats gear up for tough 2013 state races.

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."

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M Miller January 21, 2013 at 04:43 PM
I am glad that the Dems are so optomistic because I certainly am not. We do well in this part of the country but I have friends and relatives in many other areas and they are hurting. Washington needs a reality check ~ our country connot cantinue spending this amount of money without consequences. I am 55 years old and I firmly believe that Social Security and Medicare need to be revamped. Unemployment benefits need to be cut back. Who would not want to be paid for doing nothing for 4 or 5 years? It's ridiculous. Welfare benefits need to be scrutinized much more closely. Pensions are not scarosanct. What about all those companies that have gone out of business (my father's included) whose pensions became nonexistent? Why should union pensions be untouchable? A little bit of scarifice on the part of everyone would help this country come back to prosperity and hope for EVERYONE, not just the politically connected.
Robert Dyer January 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Optimistic? With spending like a teenager on drugs with an unlimited credit card, who could be optimistic? Hopefully, Congress will cap the debt ceiling right where it is.and start making the necessary reductions in the Federal government to balance a budget that is four years overdue.
Mary S. January 22, 2013 at 12:58 AM
If they do anything to Social Security it should be to remove the cap. WE put in to that insurance fund not just for our retirement but for other needs. Another good move would be to hike up the retirement age a year or two. Let's bring back the jobs to this country and get our folks back to work and not minimum wage jobs either.. Real jobs with real products for our consumers.
Stephanie Talcott January 22, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Spot on! Very well said. Washington needs a serious reality check if anyone thinks things are looking up. I live here and I don't...but I know full well many other places are much worse off. It is ridiculous that anyone even said that. Oh, and what a great party to throw...all more of our tax dollars hard at work...
Stephanie Talcott January 22, 2013 at 08:26 PM
I think it would be one thing for them to balance a budget...it would be nice if they even passed one! There is no way to balance it yet, but the cap would certainly be a step in the right direction. I teach finance and the first step is to stop using credit, completely....that is going to have to be theirs. If you don't have it, don't spend it. and you always pay yourself first! Our govt would learn a lot of they just got some of us in a room with them to help them get back to the basics!

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