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February 17, 2004
On Tuesday, February 10th, Virginians had their first opportunity ever to play a major role in selecting a Democratic presidential nominee by voting in a binding primary. John Kerry was the beneficiary. Capturing his largest victory to date, the man many labeled “too liberal” for the Old Dominion took 52% of the votes, nearly doubling his closest rival, John Edwards, and propelling himself ever more rapidly towards a date with George W. Bush.
Is John Kerry the “real deal,” as his posters and campaign slogans proclaim?
A crowd estimated at 1,100 turned out on Sunday, February 8th, at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake to find out for themselves. Many among the assemblage were surprised to see so many Democrats gathered together in this Republican bastion, but even those who came only out of curiosity found themselves electrified by the anticipatory excitement buzzing through the crowd.
There was much talk about the need to reverse the course set by the Bush administration, and many held high hopes that the Massachusetts senator can provide a new and enlightened brand of leadership. A genuine sense of optimism palpitated through the bleachers and across the gym floor.
When Senator Kerry emerged, he received a rock star’s greeting. He didn’t disappoint. Coming across stronger, calmer, handsomer and more presidential than he does on television, John Kerry forcefully laid out his plans for the future of the country. It was an impressive performance.
Promising “fairness for all, not privilege for a few,” he pledged to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in order to invest in health care and education. He promised penalties for “every Benedict Arnold CEO and company” that moves its main address to a mailbox in Bermuda to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. He vowed to “cut the poverty of millions, not the taxes of millionaires.”
He spoke of the high cost of health care, and declared that every American should have access to the same coverage as Senators and Congressmen in Washington. He spoke of a college tuition tax credit and offered a plan whereby community service during high school could be traded for tuition at state supported colleges and universities.
And he promised to invest in alternative energy sources to create energy independence, eliminating the need to send American soldiers to “fight in the middle east for oil in that region.”
There were applause lines aplenty: “…a country where the attorney general is no longer John Ashcroft;” a reference to the Bush administration as having “the most arrogant, inept, ideological foreign policy in the history of our country;” and, “Like father, like son, one term and you’re done!”
This former Navy man said, “I know something about aircraft carriers,” daring the White House incumbent to make national security the main issue of the coming campaign: “Bring…It…On!”
After igniting the crowd with his speech, he jumped off the stage and went from person to person, shaking hands, signing autographs, talking and listening as he worked the crowd. Most left the building inspired and invigorated.
The next afternoon, North Carolina Senator John Edwards came to Norfolk for an outdoor rally on Granby Street next to Tidewater Community College. A much smaller crowd of about 250 showed up to see the Vice Presidential front runner. And that seems to be what brought many in the audience out. Several said they planned to vote in the next day’s primary for John Kerry, but liked Edwards for Veep and wanted to size him up in person.
For more pictures, click here.
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