Some Virginia Democrats planning to attend Jamestown Commemoration

Updated: Jul. 25, 2019 at 5:47 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - More Democratic elected officials plan to attend Virginia’s 400th Anniversary Commemoration on Tuesday, despite a boycott by party leaders over President Donald Trump being invited.

While some Democrats still don’t plan to attend, the party is clarifying it’s not a party-wide boycott and some members are choosing to go.

Tuesday’s celebration in Jamestown is meant to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of American democracy and representatives freely debating in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. But today the debate among elected officials is over who will attend the event.

“I was very disappointed,” House Speaker Kirk Cox said to news that Democratic leaders wouldn’t attend. “I think it politicized such a great event for Virginia.”

As controversy grew over Trump’s tweets telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries of origin - all of whom are U.S. citizens - reports surfaced that Trump had been invited to speak at the commemoration.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney resigned from the planning committee for the commemoration over Trump’s the invitation following tweets to the congresswomen.

Leadership of the Virginia House and Senate Democratic Caucuses released a statement Friday that said, “We will not be attending any part of the commemorative session where Donald Trump is in attendance. The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world. We offer just three words of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation: ‘Send Him Back.’”

But Cox said invitations went out a year ago to Trump and other world leaders.

“We invited the Prime Minister Teresa May, the former two prime ministers," Cox said. "We’ve invited four presidents, obviously President Trump, President Clinton, Obama, and Bush have all been invited to parts of the commemoration.”

The White House has not announced whether Trump will attend.

“The President has not officially told us, but we have indications that is a distinct possibility,” Cox said.

A spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Caucus clarified that Friday’s statement “is not a boycott of the event by the whole Caucus. Senators Locke and Saslaw will not be attending the portion of the commemoration that President Trump is included in but it is up to each individual member to make a decision about what they’d like to be involved in. I expect that several members will participate in all or parts of the events for the commemoration.”

Cox said even since the controversy began, some Democrats have RSVP’d that they plan to be there.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax penned an open letter Sunday saying he will attend as the sacrifices of slaves will be honored at the event, and because the event is “bigger than the President.”

“This is really not about him at all," Fairfax said. "This is about all of us in our collective journey and who we aspire to be.”

We reached out to Democratic elected officials about whether they plan to attend. Aides to State Delegate Delores McQuinn and State Sen. Rosalyn Dance say they will not.

The offices of Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say they cannot attend because the Senate will be in session, while Congressmembers Abigail Spanberger and Don McEachin’s offices say they have town halls. However, Warner, Kaine and Spanberger are both scheduled to speak at other commemoration events.

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