by Henry Sewell
As the first numbers roll in from the polls, the official Athens-Clarke County Democratic and Republican parties got underway in different locations.
The rooms buzzed with nervous energy. And while people were hoping for opposite outcomes, their optimism was identical.
At Southern Brewing Company, current Democratic Party Chairman Denise Ricks, incoming Chairman Keith Roberson and the Executive Vice President of the Georgia Young Democrats Luke Boggs blended in with the crowd as people streamed in.
“After our fundraiser concluded two months ago, we were looking for a fun place to gather everybody in Athens,” said Roberson, “and that’s how we found Southern Brewing – the main objective was to inject the party in the area with youth.”
Clarke County is traditionally the only blue county in North Georgia outside Metro Atlanta.
Instead of blending in with the casual crowd, Evelyn Eidell, Secretary of the Athens-Clarke County Republican Party, was quick to greet new arrivals with a bright smile and glad-handed optimism about the night.
“We chose Loco’s on Barnett Shoals because the owner here is very kind to the party, very generous and he affords us a lot of opportunities,” said Eidell, who is helping host the event for the first time.
Eidell was originally a Southern Democrat in Coastal North Carolina, but as the party shifted to the left, she remained on the right. As the numbers and projections from Fox News filled the screen, Eidell explained why she’s not cheering quite yet.
“The first reports are nice, but they’re too early. I prefer the numbers later in the evening when we can see some definite action. And we are anticipating a victory for Trump,” said Eidell.
Back at Southern Brewing Company, the Democratic party switched back and forth between MSNBC and CNN.
Ricks, who got involved with the party after Barack Obama’s endorsement speech for Sen. John Kerry in 2004, also prefers the final results over the early numbers. “When the final call is made, when [Hillary Clinton] has it in the bag, that’s what I look forward to most.”
Keith Roberson, who is wrapping up his two-year term as communications director for the county party and will become chairman in January, compared election night coverage to watching a major sporting event.
“I like watching the polls all evening as soon as they come out – it’s like watching a horse race or game seven of the World Series,” he said. “And you’re just waiting for the inevitable walk-off homerun.”