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The Charles County Democratic Central Committee’s 2014 Truman-Kennedy Dinner featured keynote addresses from the party’s three leading 2014 gubernatorial campaigns and an overhaul to the committee’s trio of annual awards, but the evening began with recognition of a missing pillar.

Committee Chairman Al Coleman announced that the dinner was being held in memory of Leslie Eugene “Gene” Davies, an elder statesman to local Democrats who died Dec. 17 at his Issue home at age 85. The announcement of the dedication to Davies drew a standing ovation from the 180 people at the dinner.

Davies was later posthumously awarded the party’s newly established Community Award, which goes to someone who through civic involvement makes “a significant and measurable impact on the community resulting in its betterment and a positive reflection on all Democrats.”

The award was presented to Davies’ widow, Gloria, and his daughter, Charles County Register of Wills Loraine D. Hennessy, one of the nine Davies children.

“My father would be very proud and humbled to accept this honor,” Hennessy (D) said. “I just ask that you keep his spirit with you, especially through this campaign. He was a big advocate for civility.”

Prior to the awards presentation, an emotional Debra Hobbs, the committee’s treasurer, read a brief tribute to Davies.

“He was a husband for over 60 years, a father of nine, a businessman, a civic and community leader,” she said. “He was part of the central committee for over 25 years. He was fiercely proud to be a Democrat. He will be greatly missed.”

The committee’s new Labor Award and Business Award went, respectively, to Gail Kingman and Lewis C. Powell.

A registered nurse at the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata and part-time worker in the Service Employees International Union Local 1199’s health care division, Kingman also is a member of the AFL-CIO’s Tri-County Committee on Political Education.

“I will continue to fight for working-class people,” Kingman said upon accepting her award.

Powell, president of Antiok Holdings in La Plata and chairman of the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Fund, helped coordinate the Southern Maryland campaigns for President Barack Obama (D) prior to the 2008 and 2012 elections.

“We are a strong party, [and] if we think we can make it alone, we’ve got a big surprise coming,” Powell said. “It takes all of us to make this community strong, and this party is continuing to grow, and I’m very proud to be a Democrat.”

The three accolades presented annually at the dinner were previously known as the Kennedy, Truman and John Thomas Parran awards, and carried different criteria than the new awards.

“We believe that the titles of these awards better represents the community that we’re honoring, and this year, when we put out the call for nominations for these awards, and we asked you to nominate people who live in your communities, work in your communities and support the ideals of the party, you all responded amazingly,” committee member Russell Yates said.

The first gubernatorial candidate to speak at the dinner, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown reflected on how his experience in the U.S. Army prepared him to be an elected official, touted the state’s advancements in education and public safety under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and promised to continue such progress if elected.

Noting that one of every five likely Maryland voters still is not aware that the primary election is in June, Brown ended his speech with a public service announcement.

“We got work to do. Each and every one of us has a responsibility. This is the civic-minded right here, so we know it’s not us,” he said. “It’s family, it’s friends, it’s co-workers and it’s our neighbors. Each of us has a responsibility for the next 46 days to broadcast, to encourage, to promote, a little bit of duress and threat if that’s what it takes, but it probably won’t because people when they understand when it’s time to vote, they come out and vote.”

After his speech, Brown remarked on how Maryland voters have accustomed themselves to voting in the primary in September, after Labor Day and the beginning of the school year.

“Now we’re saying it’s after Memorial Day as folks are leaving for the summer. So it’s an education process, and I think it would be good if everybody pitched in,” he added.

Passing by as Brown left the dinner, Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) took a moment to stump for the lieutenant governor.

“I have never seen anybody running for statewide office spend more time in Charles County than Anthony Brown,” Robinson said.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said the two issues “really driving me and motivating me” in his gubernatorial campaign are cutting the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students, and also expanding access to prekindergarten education.

“We have to make sure we have good teachers in every classroom. It’s the only profession that if you’ve been around for a really long time, you get rewarded. That doesn’t happen in any of our jobs,” he said. “We want to reward our skilled teachers. We should be paying our teachers more. ... The bad teachers shouldn’t be entrusted with our children. We need to get them away so the good teachers can do their job.”

Gansler also said that Maryland has more work to do on cutting crime, reducing its corporate tax rate to be more competitive with Virginia and ensuring that transportation dollars are spread more evenly across the state.

“We don’t need to spend all of the money on Montgomery, Prince George’s, Baltimore,” he said, drawing applause.

Gansler also touched on his successful defense alongside a dozen other state attorneys general of the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re the only country in the civilized world that didn’t understand that every citizen in our state should have an access to health care. Health care is a right. It’s not sort of a good idea. It’s a right. Everybody in this country needs to have it,” Gansler said.

Gubernatorial candidate Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) was represented at the dinner by her running mate, the Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton.

“When Heather approached me about joining her ticket, I really jumped at the opportunity because I believe that her vision for the state of Maryland is what we so really need,” Coates said. “I am convinced that Heather is not driven by personal or professional ambition, but by a calling to make a difference.”

Coates discounted notions that the 2014 election is about the state potentially making history by electing its first black governor in Brown or its first female and openly gay governor in Mizeur.

“I find that people care more about results and issues than they do about firsts,” Coates said.