Friday, February 20, 2009

Celsi Dinner 2009

Carl Wolfson waits in the wings

The "Celsi Dinner" is an annual benefit in support for the Multnomah County Democrats which recognizes citizen activist and very active Democrat Dick Celsi as well this year's award recipient in his honor, John Vandermosten.

3rd District Congressman, Earl Blumenauer took the stage of the Melody Ballroom to welcome the roomful of who's whos and who's thats. Reveling in recent Democratic victories, he also spoke of the challenges to come.

Progressive activist/writer Karol Collymore gave a rousing call for Democrats to complete decades of unfinished business.

Former US Senate candidate Steve Novick demonstrated his wonkish wit as he played auctioneer. Offsetting high carbon footprint auction items with large contributions seemed like a good idea. Just what is an endangered species worth to you?

Aside from the live auction, a silent auction was held which included loads of political memorabilia.

Oregon's US Sentors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley addressed the gathering.

State senator Jackie Dingfelder was also recognized with the McCoy Award.

The keynote speech was delivered by KPOJ's Carl Wolfson. On the radio he combines his comedy shtick with his political acumen giving the audience (which reaches far beyond Portland) some of the best progressive talk radio currently on the dial. Tonight though, apart from his mirthful warm-up with but a few familial anecdotes, we saw Carl's serious side and i began to understand the political journey of this comedian. One of the high points of the evening for me was the tale of Rep. Carl Elliott (D-AL), the father of the bookmobile. Unlike so many Dems in the Old South, Elliott was at home in a Democratic party which promoted racial justice.

He was defeated in a 1964 special election required to reduce the size of Alabama's Congressional delegation. He would later cash in his Congressional pension to run for Governor, losing to the wife of George C. Wallace who himself was term-limited. After his defeat, he resumed practicing law and writing and was vindicated only later in life when he became the first recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 1990.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger was also a featured speaker. For giggles, I'm giving the silver to Steve Novick. But when it comes to comedy gold, the Oscar goes to John Kroger. Who knew the AG could be so funny? But soon enough Kroger got to the serious topic of supporting the Party. It's not only boots on the ground which keeps Oregon blue, it's hands on the wallet.

The Celsi dinner is the most significant fundraiser for the Multnomah County Democrats. Thanks to all who gave their support.

John Vandermosten, House District 50 leader, and one of the founding members of East Suburban Democrats was honored by the Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee with the Dick Celsi award.

"MC" (Carla) Hanson
I got to sit at the "cool kids' table" (at least for local political wonkery) thanks to my friend Stephanie (seated across from me). She's about the sweetest Greek-American (who doesn't eat eggplant) you'll ever want to meet, and one of the most generous folks i know. Efcharisto!

Her hubby Mike shares a passion for political buttons with our keynote speaker. Although seated elsewhere (or perhaps standing?), the Wolf man eventually made his way to ours. I suspect he was trying to trace down the high bidder of some button collections he had his eye on. (ok, i scored one of those myself, but i did give the first bid on it!) I was actually seated next to AG Kroger. I had met him first at the 2008 Rebooting Democracy conference. Except for a few pleasantries, i let him eat. When he wasn't on the stage, he was for the most part on the floor and was one of the more sought out personalities of the evening. He was also pretty successful getting several donors for a new HQ for the MultCo D's. Good work, John! (But the next time i see you, i'd like to bend your ear about these pesky phone solicitations i keep getting. I think it's a credit scam...)

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