Compared to the whooping and hollering of four years ago when Barack Obama won the presidency, the tone was celebratory but subdued at Alice’s Champagne Palace on Tuesday night. Many in the mostly left-leaning crowd of about 100 smiled and hugged as state by state the electoral votes added up for Obama.
The feeling was more of relief and hope — relief that a long, sometimes bitter campaign between America’s first African-American president and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney had come to an end, and hope that with Obama’s re-election settled, the country could move past the polarization of party politics.
“I am so relieved. I am just so incredibly relieved,” said Kate Finn, vice chairperson for the District 30 Democratic Party. “I think it’s a victory for every single person in the United States, and I think it’s especially a victory for the women in the United States.”
Finn cited wins by women candidates for U.S. Senate, who compiled a string of firsts: Elizabeth Warren, Massachusett’s first woman senator; Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s first woman senator and the first openly gay woman in the Senate; and Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman and first Buddhist in the Senate.
Half of the 33 Senate races had women candidates, and in some races women ran against each other. In Nebraska, the Republican candidate, Deb Fischer, beat Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. Senator and Vietnam War hero.
The general mood by members of both parties, though, was a desire that Obama and a divided Congress move forward.
“Now that he’s won the second term, you can only hope they’ll work to do something,” Tehben Dean said of Obama and Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Dean had been a campaign volunteer for Obama in 2008 when he was a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “I hope that the next four years will be more focused on what needs to be done.”
Bill Smith, one of Homer’s two Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly members, shared that wish.
“Hopefully they’ll decide it’s time to work for the country and not the party,” he said of Republicans. “Not likely, but they don’t have to be concerned with him being re-elected. They failed in that.”
While disappointed with the national outcome, District 30 Republican Party chairman Dick Hawkins said he saw a chance to get something done now.
“I just hold out hope that the Republicans and Democrats can work together this time around,” he said.
Former Homer city council member John Fenske, a Republican now registered as an independent, said he saw in the election a positive shift in voters.
“It means the electorate are finally starting to think and not just act,” Fenske said.
Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said Tuesday’s results “sent a clear message to those who want to overrun our elections with unlimited secret money and divisive politics,” he said in a statement.
Statements by Begich and his colleague across the aisle, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, suggested that the hopes of voters might be fulfilled.
“I hope my colleagues will heed the centrist message of this election when they come back to Washington so we can reach across party lines, work together and deliver real solutions for the American people,” Begich.
“In his second term, I am hopeful that President Obama will see the value of pragmatism over partisanship,” Murkowski said in a statement. “Both parties created the challenges we face today, and the solutions can only be found through collaborative efforts — good ideas don’t come with a party label. I encourage President Obama and his administration to work with Congress, represent all of America and make a better tomorrow for our nation.”
Statewide, Obama-Biden actually did better this election than in 2008, when he faced Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Sarah Palin. Compared to 36 percent of the Alaska vote in 2008, this time Obama got 41 percent to Romney’s and Ryan’s 54 percent. About 221,000 Alaskans voted in both presidential elections. Voter turnout statewide was about 44 percent compared to 21 percent in August, higher than the District 30 turnout of 41 percent, also higher than the August turnout of 28 percent.
However, because of strict procedures in purging voter rolls, voter registration numbers tend to be inflated. The number of registered voters in Homer, for example, is 4,342 compared to the total population of about 5,000.
Hawkins, who voted at the Ninilchik Senior Center, said poll workers there told them turnout was strong, with a steady stream of voters all day. Voter turnout was 40 percent at that precinct.
Locally, Romney did stronger, winning with 57 percent in District 30 to Obama’s 37 percent. Obama won the Diamond Ridge, Kachemak-Fritz Creek and Seldovia-Kachemak Bay precincts. The race was tight in both Homer precincts, with Romney getting 476 in Homer 1 and 395 in Homer 2 to Obama with 463 in Homer 1 and 313 in Homer 2. Romney swept the northern precincts, winning easily in Anchor Point, Ninilchik, and Funny River 1 and 1. Romney also won the Fox River precinct at the head of the bay.
Hope Finkelstein, whose mother lives in lower Manhattan, New York City, and has been without power due to Hurricane Sandy, said her mother told her New York Romney supporters had been impressed by Obama’s response to the disaster — a factor which might have given the president an edge in the final days of the election.
“They admitted Obama acted exactly like a president,” Finkelstein said her mother told her. “He acted the way they wanted a president to act.”
One couple at Alice’s, Bill Palmer and Shirley Fedora, laughed about how their household had split the presidential vote, with Fedora voting for Obama and Palmer for Romney. Palmer,
was philosophical about the results, saying he wasn’t upset that Obama won, but that he didn’t have strong feelings for or against either candidate.
“I don’t care, as long as we get some consolidation of power,” Palmer said of the election. “If nothing else, I hope we can pull together.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.