U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine spoke at the Virginia Young Democrats annual convention at the College of William and Mary’s Trinkle Hall Sunday. Hosted by the College’s Young Democrats branch, the convention featured numerous other speakers and was attended by more than 100 student participants.
Kaine was a last minute addition to the convention. His campaign held off scheduling events until the announcement declaring his candidacy was made last week. After announcing the bid, schedulers contacted Jenny Fornoff, vice president of the College’s Young Democrats, Wednesday night.
“It was sort of [a] surprise,” Fornoff said. “I had contacted the scheduler like two months ago about him coming, but because he hadn’t declared yet, they were holding back all of his scheduling requests. I got the final call on Wednesday night that he could come.”
Kaine closed the three-day convention on an uplifting note by inspiring those in attendance about the upcoming elections.
“Something that I find frustrating is that, while we all believe in the same thing, it is hard for speakers to be influential,” Young Democrat member Zann Isacson ’13 said. “Tim Kaine spoke in a way that was very inspiring and very motivating. He has a great plan, and he is really experienced.”
Kaine arrived at the event early and was able to meet a number of the delegates before speaking. Fornoff found this to be a welcome change from most other speakers.
“He is the first politician I have ever seen be genuinely early to something to speak,” Fornoff said. “He was able to mingle and go around table to table and meet people individually.”
While Kaine’s speech closed the ceremony, other convention speakers included Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), former Congressman Glenn Nye, former Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Signer, Gene Magruder of the United Steelworkers, Del. Robin Abbott (D-93), Del. Bill Barlow (D-64), Del. Jennifer McClennan (D-71) and Executive Director of the Democratic party of Virginia Dave Mills. Election of Virginia Young Democrats leadership for the upcoming year, changes to the Virginia Young Democrats constitution and break-out sessions during which delegates discussed party issues were also part of the convention.
“The point of convention is to bring Young Democrats from across the state together,” Isacson said. “It brings individuals together who all have the same beliefs – getting them rallied up to support the cause. There is a lot of talk of what it means to be a Democrat and what we can do as Democrats to help the party.”
The convention includes high school, county, city and college chapters. This year, the convention hosted 130 delegates from county, city and college groups statewide. The convention is hosted at a different venue each year.
“There is a bidding process to hosting the convention,” Fornoff said. “You have to send in your presentation and be chosen, and then the work begins.”
Fornoff and the Young Democrats have been planning the event since mid-December. The convention was an opportunity for many new members to become more involved in the club.
“Because there was so much work involved, it gave some of our newer club members the opportunity to get more involved,” Young Democrats President Katie Deabler ’11 said. “I think the experience will enhance the leadership of the club in the next few years because so many club members were able to take an active role in the planning and execution for the convention.”
Fornoff agreed the event allowed the club to come together.
“I think it definitely built a strong coalition within our club,” Fornoff said. “We had a huge class of freshmen this year, and from this experience, they are now really well-prepared for the coming years. We will step up our recruitment of new members in the fall, but I think this will help us because they will know what it is like to host a big event now.”