VOTER VIOLATIONS DOWN (Posted 4:57 p.m.)
Although news outlets carried assorted reports of voter intimidation and equipment difficulties on Election Day, the reports to the Justice Department of voting violations actually fell substantially over 2004. DOJ spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson says the Civil Rights Division’s voter hotline received 250 calls and e-mails from across the country this year. That’s down from more than 1,200 in 2004. In addition, Magnuson says the DOJ received 100 calls from district election officers stationed around the country. Magnuson says all complaints will be reviewed by the FBI. She describes the complaints so far, however, as “fairly routine.”
BACK-SEAT POLITICS (Posted 3:05 p.m.)
Politically savvy Washingtonians weren’t the only ones making election-night predictions and partaking in early festivities yesterday. D.C. taxi driver John Keith spent the evening picking up election-night partygoers, who withstood chilly weather and light rain, and dropping them off at bars and other vote-watching events.
Keith, who had gotten used to listening to back-seat political prognosticators about the potential rise of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to speaker of the House, the heated race between Virginia Senate candidates Sen. George Allen (R) and Jim Webb (D), and the potential fall of Republican control of Congress all evening long, found himself making several trips from places like Union Station to spots such as the Capitol City Brewery and Drinx. He spilled his two cents about how the Democrats would take over Congress whenever he got the chance.
“It’s been a long night,” Keith says, running his hands through his shoulder-length braids, adding that he voted for his Democratic favorites at 9 a.m. and wasn’t dismayed by his Republican-leaning taxi guests. “I see a lot of people going to these election parties tonight talking about the Democrats and the Republicans,” he says. “I wonder if they are thinking about the Iraq war and the new civil war we now have. The night’s not over yet, but I got up this morning knowing the Democrats will win,” he adds, before taking his fare and driving off into the rainy night.
CARD SWAPPING (Posted 1:56 p.m.)
Not every Capitol Hill staffer was taking a vacation day Tuesday to hand out fliers or make unsolicited phone calls. Nicole Isaac, 27, a lawyer on the staff of Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and an organizer of the Washington Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, co-hosted a subdued election-night party at Drinx in Penn Quarter. Unlike some heavily Democratic parties in town, there was no raucous cheering and no drunken dancing (at least while Legal Times was at the party). Instead there was a heavy dose of business-card swapping. “Networking,” said Tracey Austin of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “It’s inevitable.” Austin was at Drinx spreading the word about MomentumUSA, a group she helps run on the side that hosts policy discussions and social events for minority professionals. In Washington, of course, networking and political fund-raising often overlap. Brian Taylor, a former aide to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), was at Drinx touting his new political action committee, Penny PAC an organization whose Web site touts its decidedly vague mission of backing candidates “whose ideas on the issues of education, energy, health care, homeland security, and economic development are fresh, innovative, and forward thinking.”
Tracey Austin of Momentum USA, Nicole Isaac of the Washington Bar Association, and Ian Campbell of Momentum USA at an election night fete cohosted by their organizations at Drinx, a bar in Penn Quarter. (Photo by Tessa Milofsky)
WHAT, NO PARTY? (Posted 1:54 p.m.)
Save for a few celebrations, the mood on Capitol Hill was surprisingly subdued Tuesday night, largely due to the rainy weather. Though the Capitol Grille was packed with Washington pols and had a 45-minute wait for a table, the atmosphere a few blocks down the road at the legendary Caucus Room, co-owned by Democratic lobbyist Tommy Boggs of Patton Boggs and former Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbyist-turned-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), was surprisingly dead. Televisions broadcast the election coverage in both the dining room and bar; both were spartan and borderline depressing. A few patrons huddled around the bar watching the smoke from their cigars rise, while a few issued random comments: “That’s one minority elected,” said one patron after CNN declared Robert Menendez (D) the winner of the New Jersey Senate race.
SO LONG, SANTORUM (Posted 1:52 p.m.)
Closer to the Hill, there was plenty of whooping and shouting at Human Rights’ Campaign’s overflowing fete in the vaulted hall of the Capitol City Brewery on election night. Quite the contrast to the mood just two years ago, when the same gay rights lobby congregated in the exact location to, they hoped, celebrate the election of its endorsed presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
But by far the loudest cheers were saved for each time MSNBC flashed the vote totals in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, where Republican incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum was soundly beaten by Democrat Bob Casey Jr., the state treasurer. Santorum’s outspoken opposition to rights for same-sex couples had made him a lightning rod for gay groups, which poured more than $300,000 into Casey’s war chest. Even before it became apparent that the Democrats would take control of the House of Representatives and potentially the Senate, Santorum’s defeat had hundreds of partyers in a festive mood. “No matter what happens tonight, getting rid of Rick Santorum was most important,” said Chris Speron, an HRC staffer.
While hundreds of celebrants swilled cocktails and nibbled nachos out front, HRC had set up an election-night war room in a small room behind the bathrooms. There, more than a half-dozen staffers with laptops and high-speed Internet connections were furiously refreshing CNN’s election results Web site. The bellwether House race for HRC lobbyist David Smith: Republican Rep. Anne Northup’s effort to hold on to her seat in Kentucky’s 3rd District, which includes Louisville. By 8:30 p.m., Northup’s Democratic challenger John Yarmuth had pulled ahead, putting Smith in a festive mood he said would lay to rest the demons of election-night disappointment in 2004. “In 2004, at 7:30 it was very clear it wasn’t going to happen for us,” he said. This time, it did.
Others in attendance included officials and lobbyists with the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; the National Black Justice Coalition, a gay African-American lobby; and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps fund and elect openly gay candidates for public office.
Jason McLure & Joe Crea
Human Rights Campaign members Charles Speron, David Smith and Susanne Salkind discuss election night results in HRC’s election night war room at the Capitol City Brewery. (Photo by Tessa Milofsky)
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