|Delegate Lacey Putney, grand marshal of the Buena Vista Labor Day parade|
Over the past 43 years, the Labor Day parade and festival in Buena Vista has come to be viewed as the official launch of the political campaign season for Virginia politicians. Like its eastern counterpart, Shad Planking, it began as a Democratic Party event but has grown to encompass all parties, including Republicans and Libertarians.
This year's festivities, however, seemed to be thinner than in years past. Even Delegate Lacey Putney, who was honored as grand marshal of the parade, commented about the paucity of the crowd this year. Putney should know -- he's retiring after 52 years in the House of Delegates (a record) and he's had plenty of time to observe events like this.
Others noted the smaller crowd, too. Even compared to last year, when the headliners were U.S. Senate candidates (and former governors) George Allen and Tim Kaine, the number of people along the parade route and under the pavilion to listen to political speeches appeared fewer.
One explanation could be there is diminished interest in politics in 2013, a gubernatorial year, compared to 2012, a presidential year. Yet there was a standing-room-only crowd (as I recall) in 2009, when Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds ran against each other for governor.
Even though all seven candidates running for statewide office were there -- plus U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte and Delegates Ben Cline and Putney -- they did not seem to drag large numbers of their supporters along. Perhaps there were other Labor Day events around Virginia competing for interest.
Will the small turnout in Buena Vista today presage a small voter turnout on Election Day? We'll find out in just about two months.
The three candidates for governor -- Republican Ken Cuccinelli, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis -- all spoke. McAuliffe was called to speak first and quickly departed; he had later engagements in Covington and Newport News.
Cuccinelli was next. He was introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6).
The third gubernatorial candidate to speak was Libertarian Party nominee Robert Sarvis.
Lieutenant governor candidates E.W. Jackson (R) and Ralph Northam (D) and attorney general candidates Mark Herring (D) and Mark Obenshain (R) also spoke. Click on their names to see their speeches on YouTube.