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With the weed trade in good hands, we head off to the big party, the biggest at least on the left side of Lake Washington—the state Democratic Party’s multi-candidate blowout at the Westin Hotel. In the first room inside the lobby Service Employees International Union is holding its party, with more fist-pumping, cheering, and Obama T-shirts per capita than any other crowd. Obama has taken Pennsylvania, and Florida and Ohio are trending his way. Game all but over.
We head up the congested escalator toward the main event. The Westin’s sprawling Cascade Ballroom is packed with hundreds — thousands? — of cheering enthusiasts, most young, some hugging deliriously. And this is only the party for Referendum 74, approving same-sex marriage, which is also passing.
Up another crowded escalator, the even larger Grand Ballroom is likewise packed and raucous. Rick Steves strolls past, beaming and intoning “Obama!” CNN calls the presidential race for Steves’s fellow ex-shoomer. A cheer, and then attention turns to the Washington races. A dozen or two smiling campaign workers stand in tiered rows on the main stage, like a church choir, holding “Maria Cantwell” signs. “This is all very religious,” Rajaa observes.
State Democratic chair Dwight Pelz and Cantwell herself take the stage, delivering their own pep-rally exhortations. Easy for her to cheer; Cantwell, who used to squeak through by paper-thin margins, is crushing her latest challenger. Bob Ferguson, newly elected attorney general, sheds his aloof, brainy demeanor to roar, “I have one message for Karl Rove, after the millions of dollars his super pac spent in this state…. The office of attorney general of Washington is not for sale!”
State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark delivers another stemwinder. “I love you, Pete!” a dapper young man standing behind me hollers. “I have a serious man crush on Peter Goldmark,” he explains to his female companion. “Do you know he has a PhD in microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley and a farm in Okanogan? Can you believe he’s more than 60 years old?”
It looks like a Democratic sweep of every statewide office save secretary of state (that last refuge of moderate Republicans) and governor, with Jay Inslee leading for the latter but with the race as usual too close to call. That’s what Rob McKenna gets for stepping into Dino Rossi’s shoes.
But where are the angst and disappointment we’ve come to expect from elections? Obviously we must head to the other side to find it — across Lake Washington to Bellevue's Grand Hyatt, where the Republicans are holding their party.
I buy a suitable beer at the lobby bar — Hale’s Mongoose, the bitterest of IPAs — and try to get in the mood. The Republicans milling about their ballroom are suitably somber in attire, with a far higher share of dark suits, and suits period, than the Democrats. The wearers seem more desultory than despondent. Only one is ebullient: Tim Eyman, standing out like a, well, red flag in a red sweatshirt and curiously bright blue jeans, still youthful after nearly two decades rocking the state and making his living promoting tax-limiting and other anti-government ballot measures. His latest, I-1185, the fifth to require a legislative supermajority to raise taxes, is passing handily.
I say that otherwise, the votes seem to be going to candidates and initiatives on the other side of the spectrum and Eyman agrees cheerily: “This is the exception.” I take his picture and he waves me over to pose for one together. John Hamer, the executive character of the Washington News Council, happens by and notes what a scurrilous character one of us is posing with, but Eyman doesn’t seem to mind.
Afterward, we share an elevator with a distinguished-looking gent and his wife. How do you like the night’s results? I ask.
“I hope I don’t have another nightmare tonight,” he growls. We nod sympathetically.
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