Saturday, May 31, 2008

State GOP Convention Observations --- The Preliminaries

Just returned from Richmond, and after a few hours of recovery, I'm organizing my thoughts on this weekend's gathering. Because I was able to get a last-minute reservation at the Marriott, we went down on Friday afternoon. Arrived too late for registration, or the first-day activities, but was given the rundown by Josh Suarez, on the Marshall staff.

Didn't attend the Gala on Friday night. The family opted for dinner at the Tobacco Company, in Shockoe Slip. Interesting night. I first went there about 24 years ago, with my college girlfriend. The scary part was when, in talking to my oldest, I found that our waitress was 22. Yep. Wasn't even born the first time I went there.

Nevertheless, had a great meal. Ran into John Stirrup and talked for a time with him, and returned to the hotel for the hospitality suites.

Since it was two doors down from our room, hit Bob Marshall's first. Wine and deserts mainly, and a good group of people, but rather quiet. It was early, and after my youngest managed to loudly pop a balloon on a candle, we went to search out other venues.

Ran down to the lower level, and went into Jeff Frederick's ice cream social. A dry hospitality suite!?!?!?! Well, the boys liked it, and we had desert. But there were almost more hotel staff there than guests, and after an ice cream bar, we left.

Turns out most of the suites --- and the best ones --- were at the Convention Center. Stopped by Bob McDonnell's/Bill Bolling's. Ah, beer! Had a good conversation with State Central Committee Member David F.C. Ray, saw a few other old friends, and went next door to John Hager's suite. More good food, fewer people I knew well, but they had chocolate and strawberries, and Patrick was in hog heaven. Saw John on the way out, and told him that I would be supporting him. And that, while I believed some of Jeff's criticisms to be unfair, he would be well advised to adopt some of his suggestions for Party improvement.

At this point, Brenda thought it best to get the boys back to our room and into bed. Couldn't blame her, given the hour she rises for her commute.

Then went around the north corner, and found Governor Gilmore's, National Committeeman Morton Blackwell's, and the Jeffersoniad's suites. Morton had the best food, by far. Crab cakes; shrimp; chicken fingers. But Jim Gilmore had the best bar (perhaps explaining his victory). Full, open bar. Crown Royal; good bourgon; Chivas! Would come back to this one.

Saw many old friends: John Tate; Kevin Allen; Corey Stewart; John Stirrup. Had a great conversation with Boyd Marcus, for whom I have recently had a new respect, as he had the wit to send his son Randy, Bill Bolling's Chief of Staff, to Hampden-Sydney. Got to know Christopher Younce. Talked to John Stirrup's brother, as well as getting to know Jim Fotis (really, for the first time) and his lovely wife, Kim.

Had a great conversation with Jim Bowden, whom I have admired for a long time. Wonderful fellow. Saw Shaun Kenney for the first time in years. And Jim Hoeft, whose Bearing Drift is Tidewater's premier blog. Rick Sincere (who got great footage of the maroons protesting Vice President Cheney's visit) and Alton Foley were also in attendance. The Jeffersoniad Suite was a blogger's hotbed, for obvious reasons.

Jim Hoeft made one of the better suggestions of the night, and suggested that we all head to Tucker Watkin's suite. Tucker is the Fifth District GOP Chairman, and I'd never had the pleasure.

Well, it turns out that Tucker's suites are legendary. Great bar, and I capped off the night with an incredible burboun recommended by him. We then had a wonderful conversation about Fifth District politics. The alma mater lies in the Fifth, and it seems that Tucker and I have quite a few mutual friends.

Turned in for the night after two --- the party was still going strong --- and prepared for the events of the 'morrow....

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