Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pasta and Politics in Charlottesville

The Charlottesville Democratic Party held its annual pasta dinner last night. It is the party’s main fund-raiser, and is usually a pretty fun evening. The politicking is casual, and the talk is usually sauce and pasta. I’m not a good numbers counter, but I’d estimate there were at least 200 people there.

Brian Moran was the only Gubernatorial candidate to show up. Creigh was scheduled, and several senior staff members were they, including campaign manager Joe Abbey, but his plane was grounded in Portsmouth by the weather, and it wasn’t to be.

Terry McAuliffe, meanwhile, blew off the event, which is a shame for him. There was not a lot of love for Terry among the people I spoke with. Frequently, I heard comments like “Carpetbagger,” “Not a real Virginian,” and “What’s he doing in the race anyhow.” I don’t share these sentiments, but it suggests to me that if McAuliffe is striking this note in Charlottesville, he has to be having problems in virtually every area of the Commonwealth outside of Northern Virginia.

Anyway, back to the candidate who did show, Brian Moran. He gave a decent, if uninspiring speech that was warmly and politely received. It was probably his standard stump speech, but as Mrs. Aznew remarked, people at the Pasta Supper are eating and chatting, not really listening, so the speech might have appealed more to an audience there to actually listen to speeches, and not socialize.

The real action is in the schmoozing, Interestingly, Brian Moran didn’t look too comfortable working the crowd. In fact, he spent much time standing alone, as opposed to actively engaging people on a personal level. I don’t know if it means anything, but his reticence was interesting to see, especially if you think of successful politicians as gregarious types who draw energy from crowds, like Bill Clinton or Mark Warner.

After his speech, Moran did introduce himself to people at several tables, including my wife (who is completely non-political and finds it utterly impossible to keep track of the people she meets at these things for 15 seconds) and me. Moran doesn’t know me – we met for five seconds a year ago at the DPVA convention a year ago, but we had the following exchange:

Moran: Hi, Alan, good to see you.
Aznew: Thanks. Nice to meet you.
Moran: Nancy, good to see you. (Moran takes off)
Nancy (to me): How does he know my name? Have we met him before?
Aznew: You’re wearing a name tag.
Nancy: Oh. Right.

Anyway, good for Brian Moran for showing up, eating some pasta and hanging around for a while. His wife was there, too, and she seemed quite at home chatting people up. I think he had his kids with him, also.

All four LG candidates were there. They were each given 3 minutes to speak. Jon Bowerbank spoke first and stuck to his three minutes. So did Pat Edmundson. What saps for sticking to the time limits! Jody Wagner paid no attention to the time limit, which may even have been okay of she had something interesting to say, but, unfortunately, she didn’t. She did hang out for a while, though.

Mike Signer, on the other hand, shined. He arrived late, and may have gone over his three minutes slightly -- nowhere near Wagner’s endless address -- but he remains the only LG candidate to articulate a unique and forceful vision of what he would do with the LG office beyond the statutory requirements.

By far, he also seemed to generate the most interest from audience members coming up to speak to him afterwards. He was still there, talking with voters, when I left. As I’ve said before, he is an interesting candidate.

The pasta dinner features a contest for the best sauce. Last year, Tom Perriello won this award. This year, I thought Kristin Szakos, who was a coordinator for Barack Obama and a delegate to the DNC, and is also a recently announced candidate for Charlottesville City Council, won hands down. You think pasta dinner, of course, you think Italian, but Kristin came with a daring Thai peanut sauce that blew my socks off.

Unfortunately, she did not win. I think the Thai theme was just too unexpected and out of the blue in a venue where the expectation is Italian for enough people to give it a fair shot. Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, with his spicy eggplant sauce, won the trophy. Dave is a great guy, a great mayor and a great Progressive, and in recognition of that and in honor of his victory last night, I have added his blog onto my blogroll.

Unfortunately, I am a lousy photographer, and I just got a brand new fancy camera that I am just learing to operate, so I apologize in advance for the crappy images below:

Brian Moran addresses the crowd. Notice how no one is listening. This is actually not a reflection on Brian.

Mike Signer chatting with voters after his speech.

Another of Brian Moran

Steve Shannon


  1. Alan, it was great to see you last night, and thanks for adding me to your blogroll! And I agree with you on Kristin's peanut sauce, it was my favorite as well. :-)

  2. ooo... i am an eggplant super fan! sigh. i want the spicy eggplant sooooo badly right now. with rice.

    Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.