Christine Stuart photo

Montana’s Gov. Brian Schweitzer reminded a room of 1,500 Democrats Monday why they are Democrats.

Speaking at the annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner, the largest Democratic fundraiser of the year, Schweitzer talked about how he—a Democrat who never held elected office before—got elected in a “Ruby Red” state. He also wondered how a Blue state like Connecticut could let a Republican Governor, “slip under the fence.”

Then, answering his own question, he said “they put the other guy in jail and she just slipped in.”

Schweitzer also touched on the issue of immigration by telling the story of his Irish grandmother who homesteaded in Montana and compared the race to energy independence to the 1960s race to the moon.

He said China is ahead of America in terms of battery storage technology, but the Russians were ahead of America in getting a man into space.

“If we get it right it can be the most powerful engine for the American economy,” Schweitzer told the crowd at Hartford’s Convention Center.

“He told us who he was, what he’s done and who we are as a society,” Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, said as he returned to the state Capitol.

Christine Stuart photo

Attendance at the event wasn’t as packed as in years past because many Democratic state legislators were still at the Capitol debating legislation. Some lawmakers made a brief appearance before driving a few blocks back to the Capitol.

Fontana, vice chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, said rumors that the committee missed its opportunity to book Michelle Obama for the annual address were false. He said while they would have loved to have her, they were told she’s currently not speaking at political gatherings.

As far as Schweitzer’s speech Monday, Fontana said he ranks right up there with past speakers which included Al Gore, Bill and Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, John Edwards, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Schweitzer is currently serving as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Aside from Schweitzer’s keynote speech, there was plenty of politicking going on at the annual bash.

Christine Stuart photo

Democratic candidates for governor including former Speaker James Amann, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz were vying for support with flyers and water bottles. Bysiewicz and Malloy have only filed exploratory committees in that race.

US Sen. Chris Dodd, who had an opportunity to address the crowd, gave away pens, while his Democratic challenger Merrick Alpert was seated at a table at far, back corner of the room. Alpert did leave flyers on everyone’s seat that read “Merrick for a change.”

Dodd reminded his fellow Democrats that he intends to win what may just be the battle of his life.

“I’ve got some work to do to get back on track,” Dodd conceded. But he vowed to continue fighting.

Connecticut’s junior US Sen. Joseph Lieberman has not been invited to the annual bash since he ran as an independent in 2006.