Before an audience of hundreds at Richmond's Marriott hotel, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez gave the keynote address to Virginia Democrats during the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, a yearly tradition in the Commonwealth.
Perez, whose name is being circulated by some as a possible Vice Presidential pick for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, used the dinner to praise Governor Terry McAuliffe for some of the actions he has taken, including restoring the rights of over 200,000 former felons.
"When you did what you did for your Executive Order, I could not have been more proud of somebody," Perez said to McAuliffe as fellow democrats applauded in the audience. "If you paid your debt to society, you should be able to fully participate in society."
McAuliffe has come under fire for restoring the voting rights of over 200,000 former felons, both by Virginia Republicans, who have filed a lawsuit challenging McAuliffe's order, and by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a rally earlier this month.
"That's not the way it's supposed to work," Trump said to supporters in the Richmond Coliseum in June, adding that he hopes "the courts act quickly,"
During Saturday's dinner, Governor McAuliffe responded to Trump's comments.
"He said a couple sentences on me," McAuliffe remarked, "He got his facts all wrong."
"40 other states have done what we just did," he continued. "Why we are always last? Why aren't we leading the nation," adding, "I think democracy is about more people voting."
Another topic discussed during the dinner was the tragedy in Orlando that left over 45 people dead at a nightclub and a nation in mourning. Several of the speakers, including Perez, Senator Mark Warner, and others discussed their thoughts on "common-sense" gun legislation.
"I'm sick and tired of moments of silence, we need moments of action," Perez said.
Warner echoed those comments earlier in the evening, saying a vote needs to be had on "common-sense gun legislation."
"If the U.S. government says you're dangerous enough to be on a terrorist watch list, maybe you shouldn't be able to purchase an automatic weapon," Warner continued.
The dinner also gave current Lieutenant Governor Dr. Ralph Northam a chance to discuss why he should be elected as Virginia's next governor in 2017, hitting on several key issues in the Commonwealth, including Medicaid expansion and economic development.
"I'm proud of the work we've done here over the past three years...to get Virginia going in the right direction," Northam said to the audience.
The Jefferson-Jackson dinner is the culmination of the day for Virginia democrats after hosting their state convention ahead of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
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