More than 1,000 people showed up Thursday night to celebrate what U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly calls "the holiest day of the year" — and to donate to his 2012 campaign.
Connolly (D-11th District), boasting a "100% Irish" button on his lapel, was pleased to find that when he arrived to Kena Temple for his 17th annual St. Patrick's Day Fete, he could not find a parking space for himself.
"This is the biggest ballroom in Northern Virginia, and it was full," he said. "So that's very gratifying for a public official, that people want to come out and see each other and mingle and network and just have a good time."
Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia gubernatorial candidate, showed up in support of Connolly, citing his work on transportation issues in Northern Virginia and his fight for fair pay for federal workers as reasons to continue advocating for him.
"I would say he's one of the best members of Congress. Last year was a very tough year and he won the election, I think because of constituent services," McAuliffe said. "Everybody loves Gerry. I mean, look, there are more than 1,000 people here tonight for a St. Paddy's Day party."
Among the people in attendance were Fairfax County residents Donna and Marcel Infeld, who have been longtime supporters of Connolly.
Donna praised his recent statement in support of National Public Radio, while Marcel showed a supporter can amicably disagree with his elected official.
"He recently said he supports in Libya a no-fly zone under certain conditions," he said. "I don't support it under any conditions. But I think he means well and that matters."
Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) enjoys the camaraderie and multicultural feel at the annual St. Patrick's Day party.
"Obviously, I'm not Irish-American," said Keam, who was the first Korean-American and first Asian-born immigrant elected to the Virginia General Assembly. "The fact that we're here to celebrate one culture means Gerry is going to be there to celebrate my culture and other people are going to be there to celebrate each other's cultures. This is a microcosm of what the county is."
Connolly spoke to the room, along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, rallying enthusiasm for what Democrats can accomplish in the next two years.
"Let's be honest, 2009 and 2010 were their years. But I assure you, 2011 and 2012 are going to be our years," Connolly said.
He also acknowledged his tough battle to keep his 11th District seat in November in the race against Republican Keith Fimian, who may be running again, according to recent news reports.
"I, of course, enjoyed a landslide victory last November. Where the hell were all of you people?" he joked. "That's all right, because we fought back. ... You don't win elections by being silent. You don't win elections by covering up the differences between the two parties. You get in the arena and you fight for your values and your beliefs and that's how you win."