I'll start with what you really came here for: the truth about Jim Neal. This site is boiling to the brim over the possibility of Rep. Martin running for the Senate, especially now that Sen. Hagan is out of the race (according to a few who could be counted on to know attending the Vance-Aycock dinner). So I'm sure you want the dirt on this Neal guy so that you can throw it back at him if Rep. Martin runs. Unfortunately for those who get their kicks from schadenfreude, Neal showed himself to be a nice, likable guy with a full-shoe operation.
I was among the first visitors to the Neal party around 3:30. For a campaign's first semi-public event, I was impressed by the preparation, effort, and visible staff. I was still in my canvassing clothes - YDNC and NCFCD were on the street for city council candidates in Asheville in the morning and through lunch time - but that didn't bother Jim, who was out of his coat by the night's end and made sure I did the same.
At first, politics wasn't the topic as much as the important things in life: family, education, and ACC basketball. But as the day went on and guests came in, it became apparent that Jim's heart, soul, and tone were in touch with my kind of Democratic politics.
Jim: This general election shouldn't be hard since it's an open seat - you have to live in the state to run for Senate, right?
Note: I'm paraphrasing a little.
Neal welcomed a primary challenge should it materialize, and had nothing but good things to say about Grier. Obviously, I want to see more from the Neal campaign, and they're going to have a tough time getting my vote if a Wildcat is in the race, but Jim knew how to make one hell of a first impression. I hope one truth doesn't scare you: Jim could win the general and the primary.
As previously mentioned, my day in the Land of the Sky kicked off with the NCFCD/YDNC canvass, where 30-40 people appeared to help out Bryan Freeborn and Brownie Newman, two Democratic incumbents who asked for our help in keeping their seats on the Asheville City Council. I missed the eventful breakfast which some said lasted to long, but I think I had more fun helping the canvass reach over 1000 voters in time for Tuesday's non-partisan primary. Who wants breakfast when you can take in the most beautiful city skyline in North Carolina?
I spent most of my time between the end of the canvass and the dinner in the Neal for Senate hospitality suite, but also visited the Long and Cowell suites by the end of the night. After running in to a large sample of my high school graduating class in the halls of the Grove Park Inn, I made my way to the dinner, which I'm sure will be covered with more completeness by another poster here.
Jerry Meek gave a rousing speech with a focus on the recent controversy over half of the event's name. Jerry nailed it, juxtaposing what today's Democratic Party stands for with how that other, morally bankrupt party acts today, attempting to cast aspersions using events from a far off time while presenting no vision for tomorrow.
After an award, a few standing ovations, and WNC's newest congressman, Mudcat spanned the range of human emotions and told a few funny stories on his way to emphasizing an important point, that what makes us great as a party is that we accept one another as God's children; that we have advanced the tone of social relations in the country by having black friends and white friends and gay friends. While light on talking points for winning the "Bubba" vote, Mudcat crystallized the reasons behind why we came together as Democrats that night.
After filling up on more gossip than a month's worth of Soup could dish out and a few more hospitality suite visits, a great night came to a close. But by the end, I had every reason to believe that the next 13 months will be the time of our lives.
Front-paged by Anglico