Spotlight on Delegation Underscores Va.'s Importance

"We are being treated like first-class citizens," says Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (Richmond), left, with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
"We are being treated like first-class citizens," says Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (Richmond), left, with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 27 -- At this week's Democratic National Convention, it pays to be a delegate from Virginia.

The delegation has been showered with attention from Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, underscoring the state's importance in the race for the White House.

The 101 delegates have gotten to meet celebrities and see three of the most sought-after attendees -- Kaine, U.S. Senate candidate Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Sen. James Webb (Va.) -- almost daily.

As many people have scrambled for credentials to get into the convention hall, some Virginia delegates have scored the coveted passes for family and friends relatively easily. Some delegations are housed in hotels 20 miles from the heart of the action, but the Virginians sleep in a hotel in the center of the city.

And when TV cameras turn to the convention floor, there's the Virginia delegation, a few dozen yards from the podium, just behind the group from Obama's home state of Illinois. In contrast, delegates from Maryland, considered a safe state for the Democrats, are seated well off the floor.

Joyce Glaise, an Obama delegate from Danville, is attending her fourth Democratic convention. On Tuesday, she was in awe over her proximity to the speakers and podium.

"People used to be like, 'Oh, you are a red state,' " Glaise said as Kaine's parents and three children walked by. "They didn't give us any respect. We sat way up in the stands. Everyone knows where Virginia is now."

"We are being treated like first-class citizens," said Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (Richmond), an Obama delegate attending his sixth convention. "This is shaping up to be the best convention yet."

The Obama campaign and the national party hope the extra attention resonates back home and encourages activists to work harder in the fall to make Obama the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1964.

Party leaders are also using the convention to thank Virginia Democrats for their recent successes, including winning the past two gubernatorial races and reclaiming control of the state Senate.

"There is no question, within the hierarchy of the Democratic Party, everybody understands what's going on in Virginia," said C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Besides the state's importance in the fall election, the delegates are benefiting from the key roles played at the convention by Warner, who delivered the keynote address Tuesday night, and Kaine. They and Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) were mentioned this summer as possible running mates for Obama.

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