CHARLESTON — Vice President Joe Biden led the chorus of cheers as United States Senator Jay Rockefeller was honored Saturday evening at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner at Charleston Civic Center. Rockefeller, West Virginia’s senior senator, has announced he will not stand for re-election in 2014.
The annual Democrat fundraiser played out before a crowd of 1,500, the largest in history, according to State Chairman Larry Puccio.
“There’s a single man or woman in the Senate who does not trust and respect Jay Rockefeller,” said Biden.
The Vice President was the featured speaker for the evening, although most of West Virginia’s board of public works also praised the Senator for his work in the Senate and as Governor. Rockefeller served as Secretary of State and then two terms as Governor.
Biden favorably compared Rockefeller to two of the state’s iconic Senators, the late Jennings Randolph and Robert C. Byrd, both Democrats.
Although Rockefeller was the man of the evening, Biden’s appearance likely increased attendance, bringing national attention to the state. But Biden’s arrival was not without controversy. The focus of the Obama administration on pollution and the so-called “war on coal” has caused the President to fall into general disfavor in the Mountain State. Thus, many of the Democrats’ usual constituencies were not excited when the visit by the Vice President was announced. But inside the Civic Center, there was nothing but applause for the Veep, although the enthusiasm was clearly not as great as for other state and national officials.
A few sitting at the round tables noticeably did not applaud during Biden’s remarks. Meanwhile, outside protesters held signs and chanted for Obama’s impeachment. Some also criticized West Virginia’s other US Senator, Joe Manchin, for supporting Obama and accused Manchin of being opposed to guns.
Inside, though, the crowd dined on a buffet dinner and applauded Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Congressman Nick Joe Rahall and others.
Tennant, who is a candidate to replace Rockefeller in 2014, worked the crowd with several other candidates and potential candidates, including Second District Congressional candidate Nick Casey.
Rockefeller, who has served in the Senate for 30 years, was joined by his family for the evening.