Red jackets, ties, scarves and shawls. Long stemmed wineglass in hand. Two to four stickers: the rectangle Romney/Ryan, the round ones with “Pat” in large font and maybe even the square “Barefoot for Senate.”
People sporting such items filled the ballroom of the Raleigh Hilton Tuesday night for the North Carolina Republican Party election night party. Attendees watched the presidential election unfold on two large screens on each end of the room—one tuned to Fox News and the other to CBS. Party members mingled and bought drinks from the four cash bars in the ballroom and foyer. Red, white and blue balloons were suspended in a net above the ballroom floor.
At around 8 p.m., with polls closing but still no definite results in swing states, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes, Trinity ’67, called the group to order. He spoke on “working together to heal this land” and led the group in a brief prayer before inviting attendees to mingle.
“I’m feeling pretty positive,” said Shirley Daniels, a campaign volunteer in a glittery red cap who carried an American flag and a signed Mitt Romney portrait to which she blew kisses.
Reporters were also out in full force at the event. Not only had local news outlets set up in the back of the ballroom, half of a journalism class from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill floated throughout the crowd.
Ferrel Guillory, a professor of journalism at UNC, explained that the other half of the class had gone to the Democratic watch party.
“I’m just here doing my job,” he said, when asked about his political preference.
The crowd periodically clapped when the screens showed Mitt Romney polling ahead in races. When former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor of North Carolina, the room burst into cheers.
“We’re very excited [about McCrory]. He’ll be great for North Carolina,” said Phil Harvell of Raleigh.
In regards to the national election, his wife Sharon added in a Southern drawl, “It’s going to be a squeaker—but we have high hopes.”
Grant Fitzgerald of Raleigh was not as quite confident.
“I think Obama’s going to win the national election, so that’s a bummer,” he said. However, Fitzgerald was in good spirits since his brother-in-law, Chad Barefoot, was elected to the state Senate by a wide margin that night.
There were also quite a few young children running around the ballroom, each child papered in campaign stickers. Most, while aware that they were Romney supporters, said this was the first such event they had attended. Abigail Cutlif of Wendell, though, was an old hand at these events despite being in sixth grade.
“My dad has run for the House,” she said. “I’ve been handing out stickers since forever.”
She drank tea out of her long stemmed wineglass.
On the other hand, eighth grader Kenlee Jacobs of Raleigh was not quite sure what was going on.
“I don’t know, they just gave it to me,” she said of the Pat McCrory sticker on her jacket lapel.
At the only table in the middle of the ballroom, Kelsey Seitter, communications director of the North Carolina Young Republicans, was photoshopping a picture of Pat McCrory.
“I’m making the graphic congratulating McCrory on his victory,” she said. Inexplicably, a man in a Cookie Monster suit arrived and wandered around the ballroom floor. A cheer went up in the room when North Carolina was declared for Romney.
At 11 p.m., Hayes took the stage again and excitedly declared that North Carolina was Republican.
“We hold the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion,” he said.
He was followed by a speech from newly re-elected North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, a “constitutional jurist” who noted that 52 percent of North Carolinians thought that state Supreme Court judges were appointed, not elected, though “it’s only been by election since 1868.”
The speakers did not address the presidential election when President Barack Obama clinched the race by winning Ohio. They focused instead on the local victories.
“I’m happy for North Carolina, but sad Romney didn’t win,” said Sherry Ellmers of Cary.
The balloons were released in celebration of the state victories, and the children in the room rushed to the center of the floor, screaming and frolicking.