Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed a packed room of nearly 500 donors and supporters of Strickland for Senate at a Westlake Village fundraiser for the 19th state Senate District candidate Tuesday. The event, which highlighted the importance of the Senate race, surpassed the original fund-raising goal of $200,000, taking in nearly $250,000.

The sold-out event continues the trend of strong and growing support for Strickland’s campaign. With only two days to prepare, the Strickland team was also able to organize a successful pushback to a protest at the event that had been planned for more than a week and included 30 to 40 people. At 92 supporters strong, the pro-Strickland crowd more than doubled that of the protest demonstration as supporters lined the streets with American flags and signs showing their support for Strickland and welcoming Romney to California.

Strickland’s opponent, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, also didn’t escape the wrath of supporters as they carried signs slamming her tax-and-spend positions and exposed the hypocritical nature of contributions received by Jackson and the Democratic Party.

Romney’s message to California voters was clear.

“I believe Tony Strickland can cut back on wasteful spending and can remove the interest of special interests and bring new ideas to Sacramento,” the former Massachusetts governor said in an interview before the event.

Strickland received a standing ovation when speaking about the importance of this particular race and his message about growing the economy while being environmentally responsible played well with the crowd.

“You can be pro-economy and pro-environment,” Strickland said. “The solution isn’t raising taxes, it’s to help the economy grow. Raising taxes will only drive people and businesses out of the state. We need to push the green economy so we can get off of foreign oil and reduce gas prices for all Californians.”

Matt Guthrie is communications director for the Strickland for Senate campaign.