Under five chandeliers in the Imperial Ballroom at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, District 29 state Rep. Joanne Favors led the crowd in a cheer: “Fired up!” she shouted, then, “Ready to go!”
About 250 voices echoed the shout Wednesday night during the annual Estes Kefauver Dinner, a fundraiser for the Hamilton County Democratic party.
Event organizers said they were pleased with the turnout — last month some Democrats promised to boycott the fundraiser because of a sexist joke Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith told at an August board meeting.
Hamilton County Young Democrats President Colby Knecht, 20, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in September that his group withdrew a $1,500 commitment to the dinner.
“The women and men on our executive committee don’t have time for the childishness that’s going on there,” Knecht said. “Paul needs to step down.”
But the event’s keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., praised Smith’s leadership and said he was dedicated to the county’s Democrats.
“We need to clone Paul Smith and have him in all 95 counties,” he said. “We’d win every election.”
Supporter Paul Wise said he came to the event to back President Barack Obama and that he had not heard about Smith’s joke.
Cohen compared Obama to former President John F. Kennedy — describing Obama as brilliant, gifted and inspiring — and reflected on his time as a congressman.
“I cast a vote for the Affordable Care Act, and it is the vote I’ll most treasure,” he said.
Cohen was one of several speakers featured during the dinner. Tennessee state Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, focused on the issue of voting during her address.
“I think there’s a great threat to our democracy right now, and it’s an attempt to disenfranchise a large section of voters,” she said. “The only reason Republicans have decided we need photo ID cards is to try to intimidate people and keep them away from the polls.”
Pam Hopkins-Witzel said she attended the fundraiser in order to learn more about the Democratic candidates.
“I hope to get information on the candidates and how they feel about education and school funding,” she said at the start of the night. “And what’s going on at the city and state level.”
Guests paid $60 for a spot at the event, and each table — covered in leaflets, hats, business cards and pins — could be sponsored for $1,500.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.
Shelly Bradbury joined the Times Free Press as a business reporter in January 2013, after starting with the paper as a general assignment intern in July 2012. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint Hill Times. Outside the newsroom, Shelly enjoys ...