Notes from a Big Blue Week in Washington D.C.
Congresswomen sisters Linda Sanchez and Loretta Sanchez
are sworn in by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Photos by Alex Leon and Claudia Cody
By Susan Horsfall
and Alicia Becerril
January 7, 2007
Day 1 (January 2nd)
Cell phone rings all day as political types from SF call to announce
their arrival: Clem Clarke and brother Jack Howard, Lynn Newhouse
Segal, Alicia Becerril, Don Solem, Brennan Newsom et al. A plan
is hatched to meet that evening in the bar of famed Mayflower
Hotel, where Jack Kennedy held his inaugural party, a lifetime
ago at the climax of another big Blue Wave.
Cocktail hour is well under way as I arrive at the clubby, posh
Mayflower bar. Bob McCarthy holds court with Claudine Cheng, Patty
Jo Rutland, Holly Bratt and Lynn Newhouse Segal. Soon Jim and
Maria Gonzales, Alicia Becerril and Susan Horsfall join the crowd.
Bob has organized a crab feast across town at famed "crab
dive", the Dancing Crab.
After a zigzagging drive to a part of DC unknown to any but Bob,
we arrive at a 50's style diner whose wait staff are running back
and forth with giant platters of whole crabs, while country rock
from the juke box fills the room.
Patty Jo mutters something about where's the maitre d, but we
are seated and served in minutes with trays of whole steamed Maryland
crabs along with mallets for cracking, corn on the cob, and hush
Marc Libarle and Brennan Newsom call on the cell, and are soon
seated with us.
No gloating in the dinner conversation-only talk of what seats
we can take next in California. Bob and Jim dispense advice to
potential candidates at the table; Brennan quotes Erasmus and
St. Augustine; as Patty Jo with her model thin figure downs an
impressive stack of crabs.
"What will Nancy do next?"
"Will she outshine Harry Reid immediately or will it take
"Will she stick by her guns on Iraq?"
"Why did Feinstein get Rules Committee?"
And the big question: "Where do we watch the swearing in?"
Meanwhile, a fight breaks out in front of the Dancing Crab. Our
waitress drops a tray of crab on our table as she runs out to
join the rest of the wait staff to scare off the attacker.
After a loud verbal exchange the wait staff return victorious
to continue serving.
Calls come in from the Hay Adams bar. Dick Cheney has been seen
there, can we come over? Back at the Mayflower, the late arrivals
are calling in. The country music and DC soul food have us riveted.
We cant seem to move from the table covered in brown paper.
A rendevous point is determined: Old Ebbet Grill. The Hay Adams
and Mayflower folks are alerted and off we go.
Clem Clarke, Jack Howard and Don Solem have already arrived as
our 2 cabs pull up.
Nightcaps are ordered as Susan hands out last minute invitations
to Loretta Sanchez' party on Wednesday.
Susan Horsfall and Brennan Newsom
By the end of the night (Ouch! 2AM!), the big decision has been
made: we will rendevous again tomorrow at the Mayflower bar.
+ + +
Day 2 (January 3rd)
Wednesday evening the San Francisco crowd put on their best duds
for the Sanchez Sisters party at Esther Coopersmith's home in
the exclusive Embassy Row neighborhood. The party honorees were
the California Democratic Congressional Delegation and Speaker
Elect Nancy Pelosi.
Each room in the Coopersmith home is uniquely exquisite. The
red walls of the study are lined with memorabilia spanning decades
that included photographs of JFK, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton,
foreign heads of state, and celebrities. Upstairs the open kitchen
and bar were dotted with serious conversers, glasses in hand.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez noted that the Democratic California
Delegation was the largest delegation, the most diverse, with
a majority of women.
"When Pelosi is voted Speaker by the Members of the House,
she will be the most powerful woman in the world."
Sanchez went on to point out that the California delegation was
her source of strength and inspiration.
Guests poring through the door included Washington D.C.'s dashing
newly elected mayor, Adrian Fenty, who held court in the foyer
for an hour; Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers
and labor leader, who sought out the Sanchez sisters for a whispered
chat; gallant gentleman and California Lieutenant Governor, Cruz
Bustamante; former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Minetta,
SF Giants VP Jack Bair, US Senator and new Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, DC socialite and scribe Sally Quinn, Bob Weir and
Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead; the ambassadors of China, Russia
and a dozen other countries, plus most of S.F.'s politicos and
Washington D.C's Mayor Adrian Fenty with Allison Johnson &
California Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamante
Jack Bair with BART Pres Lynnette Sweet, Former Feinstein Aides
Jim Lazarus and George Border and lobbyist Terry Goggin.
Altogether it was a dazzling, resplendent crowd, with the effervesent
Mrs, Coopersmith at its' center.
Dolores Huerta praised the voters' overwhelming decision to change
the direction and leadership of this nation. Her primary work
for the welfare of children because "children are the ones
who suffer", can now progress under Democratic leadership
in Congress. In particular, she noted that the war in Iraq has
depleted our resources and "is causing Latino children to
Loretta and Linda cut the cake
Closing the party was a surprise birthday celebration for Loretta
Sanchez, highlighted by a luscious dark chocolate cake topped
with a replica the California flag. Under the warm starry skies,
there seemed to be no end to the celebrating.
+ + +
Day 3 (January 4th)
The Cannon Building hosted a brunch for California constutients
during the morning.
The almost Speaker stopped by with her family long enough to make
uplifting remarks, a bit of a preview of the powerful speech to
follow later before Congress
Pelosi with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren at Cannon Building Brunch
California Leiutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante stopped by the
table to remark that he attended the ceremonies because "California
is hopeful that it will finallly will be getting back a larger
portion of the $50 billion in taxes" it pays to the federal
government. Closing that $50 billion gap would provide more funding
for schools and fully fund "the cost of healthcare for everyone
in California." Under the new leadership, Bustamante's hope
is that good faith discussions will bring "sensibility to
the issues of immigration and diversity." Bustamante announced,
"This is a brand new day."
Dick Gregory said that the masses do not relate to the elevated
language among legislators. They do not relate to talk about "filibusters".
They tend to view the current leadership in Congress as a "do
nothing Congress." Gregory is hopeful the new leadership
will bring the kind of excitement to the masses that would cause
them to want to hear our leaders even in the pouring rain, like
when Joe Montana played his last game as a 49er on Monday Night
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo honored Speaker Elect Pelosi with a
champayne brunch at the Library of Congress Members' Room in the
historic Jefferson Building.
Power lawyer Joe Cotchett, PR wise man Don Solem and newly retired
State Senator Jackie Spier beamed as Pelosi addressed the House
as Speaker for the first time.
Jackie Spier with Alicia Becerril, Holly Bratt, Susan Horsfall
Judith Blackwell and Claudia Cody
Her references to the founding fathers and the new order for
the centuries resonated with import: that new order represented
opportunity and strength and has sustained us throughout our history.
She spoke of our responsibility to expand that order and to keep
the new order always new.
"It is about the many, not the few
.All can participate
in our prosperity
.It's about change, and it's about time."
As the new Speaker openly acknowledged the influence of St. Francis
on her views of human welfare, one table of San Franciscans cheered,
lead by Alicia Becerril and Susan Horsfall.
"The U.S. can "become the beacon of hope for the world."
Ending her remarks with a call to the children who streamed to
the podium damped the eyes of even the most jaded in the room.
After attending Diane Feinstein's swearing in reception in the
Senate Rules Committee, many headed over to Hillary Clinton's
reception. The room was abuzz with excitement and anticipation.
Hillary, looking fresh, was in the front center of the room surrounded
by adoring fans waiting for an opportunity for a photograph.
Hillary rested and ready for the primaries
Lo and behold there was Bill Clinton taking photographs
with Hebrew students.
Clinton greets the Rabbi
He graciously shook hands with his classic two handed
shake and penetrating eye lock. The way that the crowd reacted,
we were definitely in the midst of political rock stars(Chuck
Shumer, Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Terry McAuliff). For adoring
Clinton fans it was definitely the highlight of the trip. The
Clintons can still generate excitement on the level of a live
Later we went to the Black Caucus and Latino Caucus receptions.
They were among the best of the parties. At the reception of Bennie
Thompson, the new Chair of the Homeland Security Committee Howard
Dean, DNC Chairman and former Presidential candidate was holding
forth on the future of the Party for all listeners.
As the daylight faded the rank and file inhaled their second
wind at the DCCC hosted rock concert in the National Building
Museum, A raucous crowd ready for rock and roll awaited Speaker
Pelosi's arrival, dancing to the Grateful Dead. After Carole King
sang some 70's tunes, in waltzed Team Pelosi, a radiant Nancy
stage center, gliding with her grandchildren to the music of Tony
Bennett. Once again, she spoke about Democrats readiness for the
tough reforms ahead, with a voice worthy of Presidential timber,
still strong after hours of speeches and stand ups for news cameras.
Don Solem, Alicia Becerril and Congressman George Miller take
from buggying to the Grateful Dead.
We pinched ourselves to make sure there would be no recount-no
reversal of fortune for the children of the City of St Francis
as we danced into a new day, with a newfound majority of our own.