BUENA VISTA, Va. – An energetic crowd gathered in Buena Vista Monday for the annual Labor Day parade, an event steeped in tradition that serves as an unofficial start of the fall campaign season.
Hundreds of people came to see candidates in two closely watched Virginia races.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine emphasized his main campaign message, saying he’ll work for all Virginians.
“We are the 'for all' party, and we want a Virginia that works for all,” Kaine told 10 News as he stepped onto Magnolia Avenue.
Supporters of both parties lined the streets as politicians raced from sidewalk to sidewalk, shaking hands as their entourage of supporters marched slowly forward with them.
Republican Corey Stewart, Kaine’s challenger in the Nov. 6 election, took part in the event. He touted the Republican tax plan and the strength of the economy under President Donald Trump.
“Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, the fact is our economy is booming right now,” Stewart said.
Republican Ben Cline has been a staple at the parade, representing this district - the 24th - in the Virginia General Assembly. Now, he’s trying to gather support for a run at a congressional seat.
“I've been fighting for them in Richmond for the past 16 years for those faith, family and community values,” Cline said. “I want to take that fight up to Washington and restore some of those values.”
He said Republicans are the “party of opportunity” and he hopes to be able to help fix the problems in Washington D.C.
His opponent in the 6th District race, Democrat Jennifer Lewis, had nearly as many supporters as her local counterpart.
“We've definitely got the energy and the enthusiasm on our side. People are engaged. They're showing up, and it's just so inspiring,” Lewis said.
She echoed Kaine’s message of unity.
“We're saying 'for all.' It's not for a few people, or some people here and there, or a certain race, or religion, or gender, or sexual orientation. It's for everybody.”
The man they’re both hoping to replace, Republican and longtime representative Bob Goodlatte, also attended the parade.
The lively crowd turned raucous during the candidates' speeches afterward. More than a hundred supporters of both parties filled a pavilion nearby as the candidates took the stage, each speaking in turn.
Applause and boos filled the venue as Stewart praised the Republican tax plan.
“I know the socialists don't like it very much,” Stewart said, to which Democratic supporters offered more boos.
Afterward, Stewart told 10 News his strategy was to keep the crowd riled up.
“I thought it was great,” he said. “Even people on the other side - I love people who are energized. A lot of energy here in Buena Vista. I really loved it.”
The majority of supporters cheered for Democrats, who spoke about supporting workers.
Kaine also spoke against Stewart's description of the positive effects of the Republican tax cuts.
The crowd had opposing chants for the 6th District candidates.
Cline’s supporters yelled, “We want Ben.” Lewis’ supporters chanted, “Flip the 6th,” calling for a new party to hold the seat.
Libertarian Senate candidate Matt Waters also took part in the parade and speeches. He asked voters to back him on lowering taxes and dramatically cutting government spending.
“We all have to cut, save money, do the best we can with our budgets. It's about time Washington does the same,” Waters said.
This was the 40th year for the event.