On an election day when Republicans painted most of the country red, Berkeley called it an early night.
Many of the election night gatherings advertised as “parties” better resembled group therapy sessions after news services called Florida for Bush shortly before 9 p.m.
“It’s pretty depressing,” said Lori Belew, her face cupped in her hands. Like many at La Peña, she cheered wildly when Kerry took Pennsylvania only to watch the packed house slowly disperse as Bush staked out leads in two other key battleground states.
The lone cause of hope for Democrats after 9 p.m. came when newscasters declared Minnesota for Kerry. The news spurred Jack Thorpe to lead the sparse crown in chants of, “Are we going to win in Ohio? Yeah!
“Kerry has been fighting from behind the whole damn time. He’s going to win it,” Thorpe said.
Shortly before 10 p.m., Thorpe’s optimism was shared at the headquarters for Measure B, a school tax, which was the only tax measure voters approved Tuesday.
“Kerry still has a good chance,” District Superintendent Michele Lawrence said.
What she and others didn’t know was that about five minutes earlier the Fox Radio Network called Ohio and the election for Bush.
When alerted of the projection, the optimism quickly turned to skepticism and then to desperation.
“That’s just Fox,” said one Measure B supporter. “I don’t see how they could tell yet.”
But Measure B volunteer Mary Hilbert started to see the writing on the wall. “Please God,” she said. “I’m at that bargaining stage like I’d give up my first born.”
Asked if forced to chose between a victory for Kerry or a victory for Measure B, which will pump $16 million into Berkeley schools over the next two years, School Board Director Shirley Issel didn’t mince words.
“Kerry,” she said.
While Measure B supporters could take solace in their local victory, there was no silver lining three blocks down the road at the headquarters for city tax measures J, K and L, which would have given money to the library, paramedics and the general fund.
“They’re all going down,” said Calvin Fong, an aide to Mayor Tom Bates, as he watched returns trickle in on the county registrar’s webpage.
By 10:30 p.m., with only half of the local returns counted, the spacious office, which doubles as the headquarters for the United Democratic Campaign, was nearly empty. Mayor Bates and other members of the City Council who championed the tax hikes were nowhere to be found.
Vicky Liu, the campaign coordinator for the three tax measures, said the only matter still undecided was whether to bring out the cake they had ordered with icing that spelled out, “Victory 2004.”
Like at other election gatherings, supporters of measures J, K and L closed shop long before final election results were tabulated.
Laura Menard, who lost her bid for City Council in District 3, ended her party shortly before 10 p.m. “Everyone said they were tired and had to work tomorrow,” she said.
La Farine Bakery on Solano Avenue, the site of a victory celebration for Laurie Capitelli, the winner in City Council District 5 and Betty Olds, the winner in District 6, went dark before 11 p.m.
“Everyone was so depressed about the national results,” Olds said.
“I should have known better. I grew up in the Midwest and there are only two things to do there, fornicate and go to church.”
The party also ended early at the home of Dan Newman, one of the leaders behind Measure H, an initiative to publicly finance city elections. Newman sat dejected in his living room shortly after 11 p.m. as election returns showed Measure H’s $41,000 campaign could only garner 40 percent of the vote.
“Clearly we need to educate Berkeley more on what a great system this is,” he said of the plan to fund local elections with public money.
Marie Bowman reported that the mood was more upbeat at a party held by Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes, which opposed all of the losing tax measures.
“I think it’s great news,” she said, adding that the apparent Kerry loss had dampened the festivities somewhat.
Berkeley’s resident night owl Tuesday was Robyn Few, chief proponent of Measure Q, which called for decriminalizing prostitution. Few and a couple of loyal supporters remained at the Missouri Lounge past 1 a.m. as returns showed voters overwhelmingly rejecting the measure.
With the help of several beverages, Few managed to stay upbeat in spite of the measure’s defeat and ready herself for the next four years.
“We’re going to take Bush on,” she said. “We’re going to have to deal with him for four years, but he’s going to have to deal with us.”