Activist Doug Hickman expressed how the fortunes of the local party have changed of late, saying that among those contributing $500 for the party's expenses was a political action committee of a local law enforcement agency.
"You know why? Because we're one vote away from the County Commission," he said, referring to the current 4-3 GOP split on the board, with Republican Norm Roche looking vulnerable for his re-election in 2014.
Activist Darden Rice said she was thrilled by the president's inauguration speech, which touched on liberal ideas such as combating climate change, honoring gay rights, and defending the major entitlement programs that Republicans say are bankrupting the country.
"I think that was an Obama speech a lot of people were waiting a long time to hear. A kind of progressive earnest message. I think a lot of people were really thrilled about it," Rice said.
The event, sponsored by the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, featured virtually every local Democrat of note, including Ken Welch, Janet Long, Charlie Justice, Rick Kriseman, Karl Nurse, Steve Kornell, Charlie Gerdes and Rene Flowers.
Kornell was effusive in his praise for the president's speech, which singled out the advance of the gay rights community.
Kornell said that Obama "gets it" when it comes to respecting the gay community.
"He gets what the the people of St. Pete got when they elected me," the St. Pete City Councilman said. "They really don't care about that (sexual orientation), they care if you're a good person. It should be based on qualifications, not who you are. The president speaking out ... it makes a huge difference, especially for a kid in middle school or high school, dealing with sexual orientation at the same time that his parents might kick him out of the house for being gay ... those statements mean a lot to me."
Recently elected County Commissioner Janet Long expressed the hopes that polls say most Americans want — for Republicans and Democrats to be able to work together to advance the country forward.
"It is not about being a Republican or a Democrat, it's about what type of future you want for your kids and your grandkids," Long said.
But she couldn't help but take a shot at the party of Lincoln, saying the emphasis on the escalating federal debt and deficit drives her up the wall.
"We wouldn't have this deficit if we didn't have two wars paid for on a credit card. Nobody ever talks about that," she declared in her inimitable way. "Stop the wars, we can get back to normal."
As mentioned above, one prominent Democrat in attendance was former city councilman and state representative Rick Kriseman, frequently mentioned as a possible 2013 challenger to Bill Foster. Kriseman — who has done nothing to stop those rumors, especially after he chose not to run for re-election to his House seat last fall — was somewhat coy with CL when we asked him about a possible run, saying that he's still thinking about.