NYC Mayoral Election 2009: Polling Early and Partying Late

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This Tuesday, November 3, was the New York City General Election. My RW1 Class was dispatched into the Bronx for some exit polling. I hopped on the train at 7 a.m. to head to Riverdale, a wealthy, white and Jewish Democratic stronghold in the Northwestern Bronx to see how people were voting for mayor. The polls were stationed at PS 81, the local elementary school.

The poll was very informal, but Riverdale looked like it was going to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. More importantly, more than half the people I polled were registered democrats that went for Bloomberg.

Elsewhere in the Bronx, William Thompson Jr., the Democratic candidate was dominating. In the end, he took 51 percent of the Bronx vote. Our class broke down all of our polling into an excellent summary piece, which can be read over at The Bronx Ink.

I headed down to the Hilton in Midtown for Thompson’s and the Democratic party’s election night party. It was my first political event. Basically, its a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Supporters from across the city trickled into the third-floor Trianon lounge where a podium was set up for Thompson to deliver his speech. As I wandered the room, interviewing supporters and snapping photos, I saw a young man stationed off to the side with two laptops. As I walked behind him, I saw two screens. One labeled “Victory,” and the other, “Concession.”

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The crowd watched the TVs on the sides of the lounge as the first poll results trickled in. The pundits had been calling a Bloomberg blowout, but many of these supporters had hope after witnessing firsthand a strong showing at the polls.

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The air became electric as the early reports showed that Thompson was only trailing by one percentage point. Disbelief and excitement mixed as strangers embraced, fists were pumped and even a few tears were shed.

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A series of whos-who from the New York City Democratic Party pumped the crowd up as the polls continued to roll in. Highlights included, the Bronx’s own Ruben Diaz Jr. who delivered a rousing three-minute speech in the manner of a Latin American populist, Reverend Al Sharpton, whose speech made my fellow classmate say, “I hope they didn’t pay him for that two-minute air fart that he called a speech” and Governor David Paterson, who, despite his awkward stage presence, spoke powerfully and directly to the crowd.

Bloomberg started to pull away from Thompson in the polls and word went around that Bloomberg was declaring victory.

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at 11:40 p.m., Thompson took the stage to much fanfare and announced his concession. His speech was brief and positive. I’m not much of a gambler, but I might put money on Thompson being the next mayor in four years.

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He put an excellent spin on the evening. The Democrats had much to celebrate with the election of John Liu to Comptroller and Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate.

Afterwards, I spoke with assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, whose district includes Kingsbridge and Riverdale, both neighborhoods where most of my stories from the Bronx originate.

“It’s pretty obvious that $100 million dollars made a difference,” he said, referring to Bloomberg’s personal spending for the 2009 race.

Not exactly, a positive approach to the night’s outcome, I went to find someone with something nicer to say.

“If Bill Thompson can spend $6 million against $85-100 million and come as close as six percent (it was actually five), not all is lost,” Reverend Clinton Miller from Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn told me.

Good call, Reverend. I bet a lot of the city’s Democrats are wishing they hadn’t counted Thompson out. That’s a lot of money to spend for just a 5-point margin.

Please read my Bronx Ink story, for which all of this party-going was necessary, here.

So after the party, I hopped back on the 1 train and headed home. I got in around 1 a.m. and my evening was only just beginning. My classmate Maia and I put together the story via google docs and at 4:45 a.m., I finally laid my head on the pillow, only to awaken hours later to start on the next story. Oh, J-school.

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