The cost for the chance to bring first lady Michelle Obama to Richmond is $500,000. Richmond’s Progressive Women for Obama believe they can do it.
The goal of the newly formed group of influential Democratic women is “to get her here and get her husband elected,” as co-chairwoman Beverly B. Davis puts it.
The spark happened in May, when six friends drove to Washington for the annual Women’s Leadership Forum. After seeing the president and first lady and hearing Democratic leaders speak, the women realized they needed to do more than just “our little bit,” chair Rosemary N. Jones says.
The original six reached out to their friends, forming Progressive Women for Obama. The group includes doctors, professors and several women with connections to state and local politics. Rita Renee Henderson, for example, served as director of constituent services for Gov. Mark Warner. Kim Gray is a member of the Richmond School Board. Jean W. Cunningham is a former state delegate.
“Progressives in general have become more organized” here, says David Wills, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. The city’s black women long have been a political force, Wills says, but the concerted efforts of this group are something new.
“The first undertaking is a reception and fundraiser Oct. 24. Seated under a tiered chandelier in hostess Eucharia Jackson’s living room last week, the members discuss who’s coming. Mayor Dwight Jones? Yes. Tim Kaine? Mmm, iffy. His wife, Anne Holton? Yes.
The guest of honor: Democratic National Committee chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
What should they wear? Black, the group decides. “And wear your Obama bling, if you have it,” Jones advises.
Tickets start at $100; the event goal is $100,000. If the group’s combined efforts raise $500,000, they may get to play host to the first lady, who rarely attends campaign events.
Enthusiasm for the president runs high in this lavish West End living room. But members realize that elsewhere, three years of economic doldrums have dampened some Richmonders’ hopes.
Thus far, the excitement for Obama’s 2012 campaign hasn’t reached the fervor of 2008, Jones says. “But I think we’re going to get there.”