RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Senator Amy Klobuchar and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg pitched their bid for office before a sold out crowd of Virginia Democrats Saturday night, just a week and a half before the first debates take place.
The event, an annual fundraiser organized by the Democratic Party of Virginia called the Blue Commonwealth Gala, raised more than $425,000 to support Democratic Candidates Legislature elections across the state happening in November.
Buttigieg, who is mayor of South Bend, Indiana, spoke about the time he spent campaigning this year for three Virginia state congresswomen who ultimately flipped seats from red to blue, continuing the state’s legacy as the home of the “blue wave.”
“It’s pretty fun to go up to them today and say, ‘Hello congresswoman,’ because they are making all of us proud as part of the delegation here,” he said.
“I know ‘Virginia is for lovers’ has a nice ring to it,” he said, quoting the state’s motto. “But it’s starting to feel like ‘Virginia is for Buttigieg.’”
He also pointed to the shift in Virginia’s politics from red to blue over the last decade and how that quality could be exported to other states.
“As a Democrat from a red state, I believe we need to stand together and demonstrate that there is no place in this country where Democrats can’t win,” he said.
Klobuchar opened her speech boosting Virginia Democrats on their 2019 goal of retaking the state’s legislative bodies before turning to a Trump tweet mocking her for being covered in snow during her announcement speech.
“We have a president who wakes up every morning to tweet something to fracture our communities,” she said, noting his attacks on immigrants, people of color and fellow Democrats when they disagree with him. “It’s time to cross the river of our divides to get to a higher plane in our politics.”
“We need to take back our country and we need to make this the country that we are so proud of starting right here in the commonwealth,” she added.
The Minnesota senator went on to talk about her father’s history in the coal mines and her mother teaching second grade until the age of 70.
“That is what this country is about,” she said. “You can make it because this is a country of shared dreams.”
Both candidates advocated for increased minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare and protecting reproductive rights for women.
Noticeably absent from the night was the state’s beleaguered Democratic executive branch. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have both faced calls to resign after being accused or admitting to wearing blackface in college. Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has faced rape allegations dating back to his college years and has similarly refused calls to resign. All three offices are usually strong fundraisers during the state elections which are held every year.
In their absence, Sen. Mark Warner spoke at Friday’s event. He’ll be the next state-wide seat up for grabs in 2021.
He spent his time on stage talking about meeting Buttigieg at an early Democratic leadership training event years prior. He also brought up legislation he’s co-authored with Klobuchar which hopes to reign in President Trump.
“We know the path to the White House leads through Virginia and we have to send a message to Trump,” he said, encouraging the crowd to work to remove the president from office in 2020. “Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”