BRADENTON, March 24 - Manatee County Democrats celebrated passage of the new health reform law, which gained President Barack Obama's signature Tuesday, with a non-alcoholic champagne toast, effusive speeches, and a round of congratulations to all who worked for it.
Democratic Executive Committee vice-chair Jean Patterson called the DEC to order at the Bradenton Public Library main branch on Barcarotta Blvd. shortly after 6:30 PM on March 23 with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence, and then lost no time breaking out the faux champagne.
Longtime DEC member Bill McGrath poured the cider bubbly and served it on a silver tray to all present.
Treasurer Randy Cooper, a Holmes Beach fire commissioner, read a letter from DEC Chairman Larry Miller, who was unable to be present, congratualting the DEC members who toiled for passage of the law and predicted a bright future for America under it.
"Healthcare is a right and not a privilege," Miller said. "No one should have to chose between their health and keeping their home. Due to our President and your commitment and dedication in working to get him elected," he told the DEC, "we have achieved what has been denied this country for over 100 years: healthcare for every American."
Miller, a former New York Community Council member, also took a swipe at the Bush Administration.
"We still have a long way to go in correcting the misguided initiatives of the last administration," he said. "We now know what change looks like, as our President said yesterday. In addition, we know that big things can be achieved and that he is the one to lead us into that bright future of providing pathways to a better life.
"I look forward to working with you in the future in providing a better quality of life to all of our citizens as we seek to bring light into dark places," he said.
State Committeeman Mitch Mallett, a political talk show host on Bradenton's lone independent radio station, WWPR AM 1490, told the audience of DEC members and guests that the battle was long and difficult, especially after many declared the legislation "dead" in January, but that he never faltered in his belief it would pass.
The DEC also heard from the Rev. James T. Golden, who is gathering signatures in a final push this week to win a place on the ballot as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Golden, an attorney and well-known Bradenton minister who served several terms on the Bradenton City Council, is likely to face a challenger in the Democratic primary from Rick Eaton, who told Golden that he will pay the $10,000 ballot fee rather than present the 5,000 signatures required for a ballot spot, Golden said.
Golden's own campaign has raised nearly $40,000, according to Mallett, who pledged an amount Tuesday night that Golden said "brings a smile to my face."