Historic election night fuels watch party curiosity


election night
Children hold signs during a watch party for gubernatorial candidate Mick Cornett June 26 at Tower Theatre. (Michael Duncan)

The last time I spent much time hanging out at election night watch parties was when George Nigh was the white-hat candidate on his way to being governor. Goodness, that was 40 years ago.

So, I can’t explain what came over me Tuesday night when I decided to check out the campaign camps in Oklahoma City. The mission did include taking some photographs for NonDoc’s election coverage, but curiosity was an even greater driving force.

Would this election be different? Would we see signs of a blue wave in this red state?

Jumping around watch parties on election night is sort of like bar hopping, except the person who grabs the microphone and takes the stage doesn’t break out into karaoke. Instead, they thank their family and friends and everyone who voted for them.

As was true in 1978, the snacks that campaigns bring to election night watch parties tell a lot about the candidates. The layout at that Nigh watch party was like a feast for a sultan. Of course, by the time you find this morsel of information out, it’s too late to change your vote.

Eating cake in the back of the room

My first stop was Kendra Horn’s watch party at 7:30 p.m. at McNellie’s. Horn is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress, hoping eventually to upend spit-and-polish incumbent Republican Steve Russell in November.

You may have seen me. I was the one in the back of the crowd eating the leftover cake decorated with icing that said, “Ke dr H rn for 5th Dis Congress.” Yeah, there weren’t many pieces left when I found the cake.

This was a festive crowd of old-time Democrats and millennials. Some of the OKC arts crowd. An ex-Lt. Governor’s brother. I saw an old friend in the Edmond Democratic Women Club there.

But, Horn was late for the party. So, instead of getting high on sugar while waiting, I drove up to the Speakeasy on 51st Street to check out the pro-State Question 788 watch party.

Green wave on display at SQ 788 party (but no brownies)

This pro-medical marijuana watch party was at a bar across the street from a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting place. The ironies of politics. Still, if anyone was going to have good munchies, it would be this crowd.

What I found instead was disappointing. Maybe these people really were just for “medical” marijuana and not full-blown marijuana after all, because all I saw on the food table were slices of honeydew melons. No potato chips or Doritos or anything self-respecting ganja hosts would lay out for their guests.

They didn’t even have brownies.

There were some tie-dyed shirts in attendance, but most looked healthy. When you get healthy yoga people voting for medical marijuana, it’s no wonder SQ 788 passed in conservative Oklahoma with nearly 57 percent of the vote. This wasn’t a blue wave night. This was a green wave.

There was a band called Electric Okie Test on a small stage playing good old rock ‘n’ roll. They actually looked like high school class mates of mine who have been receiving medical marijuana treatments since 1976. (I am sure the soon-to-be medical marijuana license can be backdated.)

Electric Okie Test performed during the State Question 788 watch party June 26 at The 51st Street Speakeasy. (Michael Duncan)

Back to Horn’s

By 8:30 p.m., I was back at Horn’s shindig, waiting on the Democrat running for the 5th Congressional District to show up so I could get her photograph.

Despite being late, Horn thanked me for being there. It’s hard to be upset with people who thank you. Even politicians.

Horn ultimately received nearly 44 percent of the vote and will be in a runoff Aug. 28 against Tom Guild (who received 17.9 percent and likes to collect election memorabilia — most notably yard signs).

Democratic candidate for CD 5 Kendra Horn delivers a speech to supporters June 26 at McNellie’s. (Michael Duncan)

Evangelicals inconspicuous at Cornett’s party

For a nightcap, I went to the Tower Theatre on 23rd Street, where Mick Cornett’s campaign had set up camp. This is one of the best venues for just about anything in Oklahoma City, so props to the former mayor for site selection.

I didn’t get to the food there, however, because just as I arrived the chime on the wall struck 10 o’clock, and we all know what that means: It’s time for the news.

Former TV anchor Cornett (yes, I know he also was mayor of OKC) took the stage right on cue. It could have been better if they had played some “newsy” music introduction with the sound of a wire-service ticker in the background.

I was hoping he might read the evening baseball scores or perhaps report that his sources indicate Paul George will stay with the Thunder. Instead, he thanked his family and friends. He even went further and brought them all up on the stage.

Mick Cornett stands on stage with family and supporters June 26 at Tower Theatre. (Michael Duncan)

That’s when I learned many of Cornett’s supporters are children. Cute kids, too. That is progressive thinking of a candidate to build his base starting at the elementary school level. That must be what MAPS for Kids was all about. But no. He said they were his family. Well, a good-looking family Mick has then.

Examining the crowd, I saw no obvious Okie evangelicals. I’m sure of this because the biggest huddle was near the open bar.

Mick told the crowd that we need a change in attitude at the state Capitol. Perhaps he had already seen the vote tally on SQ 788. I had to remind myself I was among Republicans and not progressives.

Cornett (at 29 percent of the vote) will be in a runoff against Kevin Stitt (at 24 percent of the vote).

The food was better in ’78

I didn’t make it to Drew Edmondson’s watch party, unfortunately. By the time Mick had finished his speech thanking the kids, Drew had already given his speech at the Embassy Suites and likely headed home and to go to bed. He’s been in this rodeo before. No reason to stay up. You can do that when you are 71 years old and you win your party’s nomination with 61 percent of the vote.

I regret I didn’t make it to the combined Mike Hunter and Todd Lamb watch party at the Waterford Marriott. It would have been fun to see one half of the room elated (Hunter led GOP Attorney General candidates with 44 percent) and the other half of the room deflated (Lamb was odd man out, getting only 23 percent of the GOP gubernatorial primary votes — not enough to make the runoff). Sort of a yin-and-yang experience for the Nichols Hills neighborhood. Plus, I know the food service at the Marriott is outstanding.

Anyway, the historical night for Oklahoma elections was over. My bones were weary. Staying up late on election night was much easier back in 1978 (and the food was better).

I’ll rest up for November. In the meantime, I suggest some candidate get a white hat and a caterer.

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