Traveling between the Republican Party headquarters on 1st Street and the Democratic Party election night party at the Eagles Club after the polls closed Tuesday night was a manic depressive experience.
There was laughter, cheers and mile-wide grins of the Republicans as the numbers came in over more than four hours. And there were the Democrats’ silent, dumb-founded, blank stares.
When the evening started, it was anybody’s night.
All of the candidates and party leaders from both parties expressed similar sentiments about how hard everyone worked on their campaigns and how they were all just hoping for the best.
“Our party is only as good as our candidates, our volunteers and our efforts. And I think tonight’s results will be a testament to all three,” Havre Republican Party Chair Andrew Brekke said as festivities commenced.
“I tried to be respectful. I did my best. I just hope the voters make informed decisions,” State House candidate Dana Sapp Seidel said shortly after the polls closed.
Then as the numbers came in, the atmosphere in the respective buildings shifted dramatically.
As Brekke stood in front of the candidates and supporters and read the numbers, district by district, the applause and the excited shouts grew louder and more frequent.
“We cannot only win, but we try hard and we don’t give up,” Brekke said amid deafening congratulations.
One woman stood outside of the headquarters, pointing a megaphone toward the Eagles as it played a simple beeping rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
As John Musgrove, the local chair of the Democratic Party, read off numbers, the crowd there grew quieter and quieter. By the time half the districts had reported in, the room was silent except for a few expressions of dissatisfaction muttered under breath.
Between the local numbers stacking up on one wall and a large TV on the other showing results from across the country, the Democrats became visibly upset. There were a few tears wiped furtively away.
“I am a little bit amazed that what was normally a Democratic district was swept up in this wave,” Musgrove said. “I’ve always believed that no matter what, people get what they vote for.”
By 11 p.m., the majority of Democrats left the dining tables they had set up for those in the bar. The beers that started out as a means to unwind after intense campaigns became consolatory.
The evening ended again similar for both, with everyone exhausted, though obviously for different reasons, and looking ahead.
Just after midnight Brekke congratulated all of the candidates and introduced them for speeches to all of the people that helped make their victories possible, and reminded people that this is just the beginning.
“The race for 2012 starts tomorrow. We need to keep you guys energized,” Brekke said, then adding that local City Council elections next year are even earlier.
Musgrove expressed a similar forward-looking sentiment.
“Like most of the coaches say, there’s always next year.”