Monday, May 14, 2007

ODP Dinner Observations: The Atmosphere.

Last year the air at the Ohio Democratic Party Dinner crackled with what Russell Hughlock at the time called “October energy.” This year the energy was different. Not lower and certainly not qualitatively worse, just different. Last year Dems knew they were looking at picking up state positions and gaining ground in legislative races. They were hopeful about the extent of the gains, but positive that they were coming in out of the cold.

The atmosphere then was like a college graduation with everyone looking forward to the next phase of life. Now it’s more like that five-year anniversary where people talk about their Real Jobs and I’m-an-sdult-now lives. Less giddy, more happy. Less October Energy, more January Resolve. We’ve won. We’ve had out “What do we do now?” moment and not sleeves are rolled up and work is getting done. They've gotten control of the government, now it's time to make Ohio a better place.

While the mood was more grown-up, the crowd wasn’t necessarily. It seemed to me there were more young adults in the crowd. I was turning this over through the weekend when it came to me: young staffers. Now that Dems hold statewide offices, they are hiring junior staffers and comping them for events like this. This should have been more obvious -- a former blogger friend and I had an extended conversation about his new job with one of the statewide electeds.

This is an important development for the future of the party. Recall that Jennifer Brunner learned how to be Secretary of State as an attorney in Sherrod Brown’s office when he held that office. These offices are training grounds where young people are learning both the business of politics and the business of government.

The “let’s work” atmosphere translated into a much different format when the party took the stage. Where last year a series of exciting candidates stood on stage to rally the troops moving into high political season, this year most of that group were office holders coming out of their honeymoons with business to take care of.

The stage was flanked by huge flat-screen video monitors where we saw introductory videos of each constitutional officer before they took the stage. The videos were interview snippets about what they set out to do, what they had done so far and something we might not know about them. Sample: Jennifer Brunner reads People magazine cover-to-cover every week. I actually could have done without that one.

The videos were the rally point for our electeds. Then their job was to introduce the award winners for the year – Volunteer of the Year, County Chair of the Year, and so forth. Jerid has the list up if you are into that sort of thing.

More to come.