Shortly after the polls closed on the East Coast Tuesday, Portlanders had already crowded into election night parties across town, eagerly anticipating the results..
They didn't have to wait long: Senator Barack Obama quickly took the lead in the presidential race. At the Doug Fir—the scene of the Mercury's election night bash—political activist Steve Novick hopped on stage to assure the crowd that things looked good for Obama. Unless there was "massive voter fraud" down the road, Novick said, Obama would be the next president. And if not, Novick pledged to lead the crowd to the streets in protest.
Thankfully, he didn't have to. Just seconds after polls closed on the West Coast at 8 pm, Obama was declared the winner. In Oregon, he cruised through with 56 percent of the vote.
Seconds after Obama was declared the victor, Multnomah County posted preliminary results. At the Ecotrust Building in the Pearl District, Amanda Fritz found out she had nearly 72 percent of the vote. She gasped at the high number, throwing her fists in the air.
"Sometimes you work really, really hard, and you have lots of really, really good friends, and something really, really good happens!" she told the crowd, which included Mayor Tom Potter, Mayor-elect Sam Adams, and Commissioner Nick Fish. She also put on a jersey with the number seven on it—to commemorate her victory as the seventh woman ever elected to the Portland City Council—then cut into a massive sheet cake.
In North Portland, Fritz's opponent, Charles Lewis, partied with his supporters at his campaign headquarters on NE Killingsworth, with a keg of Bridgeport IPA and a live band. "I think we ran a really solid campaign, especially [in the general election]," he said. "[Fritz] just had such a head start that it made it really hard."
At the Oregon Convention Center, Democrats had plenty to celebrate: John Kroger, Ben Westlund, and Kate Brown were well ahead in the attorney general, state treasurer, and secretary of state positions, respectively. A marching band wound through the convention center as people ecstatically wandered around with "President Obama" signs (paid for by US Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who hopped up on stage to ask the crowd, "Have you heard?") The halls were filled with people gossiping, laughing, and shouting cheers into cell phones. Outside, it was vehicular mayhem, with car horns honking like mad.
Inside, when John Kroger saw the early returns—he was cruising to victory with over 73 percent—he was already thinking about the morning after: "Tomorrow morning I'm going to stand on the Hawthorne Bridge and thank voters," Kroger promised.
Meanwhile, the Oregon State House was picking up Democrats left and right. At 9 pm, as the early results were putting East County underdog Brent Barton ahead by a wide margin against archconservative opponent Linda Flores, campaign manager James Barga described Barton's mood as "cautiously optimistic."
"The blue wave that put Obama over the top in the beginning of the evening has helped our campaign. But at the same time, Flores is a formidable opponent," Barga said. Elsewhere, Democrat Jim Gilbert, running in Silverton—where it "should be impossible for us to win," Novick noted—was up by just over 30 votes against his Republican opponent. And Democrat Greg Matthews defeated incumbent Republican John Lim in Gresham.
In the state measure races, the measures that Defend Oregon fought—Measures 58 through 64, which were Bill Sizemore and Kevin Mannix-sponsored measures—were either failing or too close to call. At the convention center, Defend Oregon staffers gathered anxiously around a whiteboard, looking at the statistics for each measure. "It's a big deal," one staffer noted about anti-union Measure 64, which was the closest race at 10 pm.
"It's been a big goal all along to get Measure 64 passed by trying to divide the labor community between all the other measures. But the Defend Oregon coalition came together to fight all the measures as one coalition," said Defend Oregon's Scott Moore, who was optimistic the measure would fail.
Oregon's US Senate race, however, remained too close to call for much of the night. Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Gordon Smith, led by a slim margin. As we went to press, Merkley's campaign was still waiting before declaring victory. His supporters stayed glued to the television after Obama's victory speech, snacking on cheese cubes as they waited for more returns.
Mayor-elect Adams, who eventually landed at the convention center, was thrilled that Obama won. "He comes from cities, he knows cities. He knows what a streetcar is, and he knows that urban infrastructure is crumbling." Indeed, during Obama's victory speech the president-elect pledged to rebuild America, "block by block, brick by brick.
"You understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama told the massive crowd at Grant Park in Chicago. "For even as we celebrate tonight, we know what tomorrow will bring."