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Inaugural Ballers

A Cowboy crashes the Virginia Ball, Pam Reynolds wears Prada.

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It's been a long time coming, but last night Virginia Democrats proved that no matter how much change comes they'll still celebrate by renting a hotel ballroom, setting up carving stations and dancing on the industrial carpet to a wedding cover band.

After retaining two consecutive governerships, winning back both U.S. Senate seats, the House of Delegates and shepherding the state into voting Democratic in a presidential election for the first time in 40 years, the party now ascendant still parties the same way.

At the Westin Arlington Gateway hotel in Northern Virginia, Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner gripped and grinded with big donors in sequined sleeves and showed off their campaign-polished speaking skills -- not previously a strength for either.

Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith said a few words. “I'm sorry for all you Redskins fans out there, but it's only a game,” he said, though State Sen. Henry Marsh and longtime fan of the ‘pokes doubtless had no qualms. Smith is married to former Miss Virginia beauty queen and survivor of Gov. Doug Wilder’s press office, Patricia Southall, who, like a good cheerleader, grabbed the mike and shouted “go Virginia!”

There was a rumor that Denzel Washington had called about coming, but traffic scared him off when he heard the ball was in Virginia and not the district proper.

Arts booster Pam Reynolds was there in a fur-lined vintage Prada coat topping a black vintage Chanel dress over electric blue leggings -- the party, after all, was to celebrate turning Virginia blue, she said.

Virginia Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine spoke, reminding that the first black president was elected “not despite Virginia, or Virginia catching on after everybody else did, but with Virginia at the front of the train.”

Joe Seipel, the outgoing arts dean at Virginia Commonwealth University who served on the committee that helped bring the Civil Rights memorial to Capitol Square, sipped a cocktail and took in the scene. A wonderful time, he said.

“I would have chosen a different band to be perfectly honest, but that's not a big thing,” Seipel said.

And as scores of middle-aged political operatives pumped their fists at the ceiling demanding that someone -- Def Leppard? Tim Russert? The upstairs neighbors? -- might “pour some sugar on me,” you could kinda see their point.

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