At the national level, especially early on Election Night, it looked not so color appropriate for Democrats. But at the state level, in Nevada, after a long wait, results took a decidedly blue turn. Reporters Josie Steehler and Tanner Barrett were at a Democratic watch party in Reno to witness the full range of emotions. Additional reporting and photography by Nathaniel Perez.
Washoe County Democrats awaited Nevada election results with alcohol and food on Election Night. Photo by Nathaniel Perez.
The Ups and Downs of Results
As we made our way through the room we were noticing a lot of drinks being passed around, and heard conversations about the “red sea” of states Republicans were projected to win as they appeared on two large screens playing the news. Anytime Democrats were projected to win a race, the crowd stopped what they were doing to cheer loudly before going back to eagerly awaiting any results to come out of Nevada.
Between the sudden ruptures of cheers and celebration, we noticed an older man in front of us and asked him how the night had been going for him.
“So far it is turning out the way I thought,” he said as early projections which would be confirmed indicated Democrats would secure a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans would hold on to their Senate majority. His name was Tommy O’Brien, a Vietnam Veteran.
“My father you know, he was a Democrat, and if Christ came down from the cross and said I want you to vote for a Republican, he wouldn’t do it,” he said with a chuckle.
Despite his unwavering support for Democrats, he questioned the impact the election outcome would actually bring.
“I don’t know if there is going to be any change at all. We are running a 21 trillion dollar (national debt) deficit, who is going to pay that?” he asked.
Above a panorama of the watch party and below an audio interview of some of the attendees as they awaited results. Photo by Nathaniel Perez. Audio by Josie Steehler and Tanner Barrett.
Fears for Different Communities
While O’Brien was quick to bring up the economy, Brooke Maylath and Kimberly Mull were more passionate about social issues.
“There is a population of our country that feels like because women are getting more rights, because LGBTQ are getting more rights … that means I am getting less rights, and that is not correct” Mull said.
As a transgender woman and the President of the Transgender Allies Group in Reno, Maylath expressed graver concerns.
“We have one political party who wants to be able to erase my community, my community’s existence” she said. “I am very very curious to see whether or not this country is going to go the way of democracy or fascism.”
More of the nervous mood before Nevada’s results made Democrats elated.
A Cultural War?
“This is not just a political battle, it is a cultural war,” Washoe County Assessor said on stage as more results were being revealed on the screens.
“The wait is extremely stressful,” said student Emma Jerz. “I wanted to be around fellow Democrats while I watched the rest of the country make their decisions. Every time a new win was announced for Dems, a cheer went up around the room and it made all the campaigning, canvassing, and hard work worth the effort,” she said.
The mood turned celebratory as Democrats started seeing their wins in Nevada.
Nevada’s Own Blue Wave
In the end, the blue wave didn’t happen nationally, as Republicans kept their hold on the Senate and any possible Supreme Court nomination battles over the next two years.
But at the state level, the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Dean Heller was handed his first electoral defeat, giving the state two Democratic senators, with Democratic Senator-elect Jacky Rosen joining Catherine Cortez Masto in Washington, D.C.
The Democrats also made gains in U.S. House seats and also won its first gubernatorial election in two years, as Steve Sisolak defeated his Republican opponent Adam Laxalt. That victory was only confirmed at 1 a.m., as high voter turnout and long lines when polls were about to close, explained some of the long wait in getting Nevada’s results. Later into the night, it was announced Democrats also kept their majority in both houses of the state legislature, turning what has recently been called a swing or purple state much more blue, which for the Democratic faithful is a happy development.
Reporting by Josie Steehler, Tanner Barrett and Nathaniel Perez shared with the Reynolds Sandbox