Democrats, Republicans gather in downtown Phoenix hotels for election parties

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Students gather to watch election results in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum. It was just one of many election viewings in downtown Phoenix. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

By Aubree Abril, Jessica Boehm, Annika Cline and Kimberly Koerth

On Tuesday night, First Street wasn’t the only divide between the Hyatt and the Renaissance hotels. Arizona Republicans watched the race unfold from inside the Hyatt while their Democratic counterparts watched the race from 50 feet away.

Arizona Democrats celebrate Obama’s victory

The Renaissance Hotel was filled with Barack Obama T-shirts, Democratic campaign signs and Kyrsten Sinema supporters during the Arizona Democratic Party’s election party.

Many guests decided to attend the election party so they could celebrate Democratic victories collectively. After a heated campaign cycle, Carlos Clark, 22, said it was nice to know that everyone at the party was on his side.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said downtown was a good place to be on Election Night.

“You have the Republicans at one hotel, the Democrats at another hotel, and you can meet at the bars later,” Stanton said.

Stanton gave a speech at about 9:15 p.m. Partway through his speech, he was interrupted on stage and asked to make an announcement.

“I don’t know how many of you watch Fox News in this room, but our friends at Fox News just called this race for President Obama,” Stanton said.

The energy in the room elevated after the announcement. Many celebrated Obama’s victory but also admitted they were never very nervous about the outcome.

“We were already breathing easy, we were just waiting for something official,” Yousef Hawash, 23, said. Hawash said he felt comfortable an hour before Stanton made the announcement.

After the presidential race, the district nine congressional race was the most highly contested. Democratic congressional candidate Kyrsten Sinema made an appearance at the party.


Photos of the Democratic viewing party by Madeline Pado.

At 10 p.m., Sinema announced that the race was too close to call.

“Let’s vote, let’s fight, let’s win,” Sinema told supporters. Sinema reminded attendees to remain optimistic as more results were returned.

Dennis Davis supported Sinema since her first race for Arizona House of Representatives. When she won that race, he delivered a dozen roses to her. At the election party on Tuesday night, he performed the same ritual.

“She supports everything we support,” Davis said.

Republicans Joe Arpaio and Jeff Flake won their races for Maricopa County Sheriff and U.S. Senate, respectively. Because these two races were so heated, Democrats said provisional ballots and early ballots should be counted before announcing a true winner in any race.

“Every vote has to be counted,” Stanton said. He said many of the provisional ballots are from Latino areas. This demographic typically votes Democratic.

Dustin Johnson, 30, said he was surprised by the Maricopa County Sheriff and U.S. Senate races.

“I thought it was a lot closer than what was shown tonight,” Johnson said. He also said there are still many provisional ballots to be counted that could affect the outcome of the race.

When the night wound down and Mitt Romney took the stage at about 11, very few people at the party were able to hear his concession speech. Attendees booed when Romney took the stage and shortly after broke out in the chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

Arizona Republicans sad for presidential loss, celebrate local wins

The Arizona GOP viewing party attendees were disappointed when the presidential race was called for President Obama at 9:15 p.m.

“You notice how when President Obama was called as the winner how it just became all quiet upstairs. It’s just so sad, because what do we have to expect in the next four years?” said Sozelle Flake, sister of U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, who won Arizona’s open seat in the U.S. Senate after beating former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

Those in attendance were still excited about what they saw as the evening’s successes, which included Flake’s win.

“He’s conservative and wants to take our country in the direction that our founding fathers meant it to be in,” Sozelle said.

Flake gave his victory speech with his wife and five children at his side. His message was one of hope for the future.

“We have to go back to Washington and make sure that first the Senate passes a budget,” Flake said.

Early in the evening, the atmosphere was hopeful, but became more anxious as the night went on.

As the polls in the Northeast started to close and precincts began to report, people gathered in one corner of the ballroom, in front of the large screen displaying Fox News. Many were confident Romney would win.

“I think it’s going to be a landslide for Romney,” Jorge Ortiz said.

Ortiz and many of his fellow Republicans expected that the presidential race would be so tight, it would continue late into the night.

“For the presidential race I think we’ll be here extremely late,” said Isabella Kramer, a volunteer for the event. “I think it’s going to be very, very close.”


Photos of the Republican viewing party by Dominic Valente.

Cheers filled the room when the ballroom’s occupants heard that Republicans would retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

But as the night continued, the mood turned anxious. Heather Huennekens, 17, was there with a group called Teenage Republicans, and was nervous about the presidential race.

“I don’t want to say anything that will jinx it,” Huennekens said. “I’m really anxious. I just hope it comes out better for us.”

Despite Romney’s loss, the night held local Republican successes, including Arpaio’s re-election and Matt Salmon’s election to Congress. Jeff Dial won what he called a “battleground” district — Legislative District 18 — for the State House of Representatives.

“I’m very happy, very excited,” Dial said. “I really have this battleground district down there in Legislative District 18, so to come across the finish line is so nice.”

Though Republicans were lamenting the loss of the presidency, guests cheered when Jeff Flake took the stage to make his victory speech after praise from Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl. Some of the most excited audience members included the newly elected senator’s extensive family – Flake thanked his 10 siblings and their families for attending last night.

One of his nieces, 17-year-old Ally Flake, is not yet old enough to vote, but said she has been keeping up with the debates and the race with her family.

“I think it’s going to be really close,” she said of the presidential race.

That seemed to be a consensus among younger guests at the reception. ASU student Matt Farberov, a criminal justice and criminology major, was shocked when the presidential election was called earlier than expected, before all the votes had been turned in. He still held a small hope, though, that things might turn in Romney’s favor.

“It’s a split between my heart and my mind. My mind says probably not but my heart says please, please, please,” Farberov said. He came to ASU from California, and said he likes the political climate here much more.

“I really like Arizona, especially coming from California. I feel like I fit in more,” Farberov said. He held his Romney/Ryan sign at his side, and said he’ll be displaying it on his door regardless of what happens.

Contact the reporters at aubree.abril@asu.edu, jessica.boehm@asu.edu, annika.cline@asu.edu and kimberly.koerth@asu.edu