Over plates of chicken wings, mounds of pulled pork and $2 drafts, Republican and Democratic party supporters gathered to cheer and boo along with election results Tuesday night.
At Slate pool hall in South End, where the Democrats gathered, a handful of candidates showed up early in the evening. N.C. Senate incumbent Jeff Jackson chatted with supporters and played ping-pong with his stepson. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams sat in a chair as friends gathered around her.
The hundreds of partygoers represented a huge mix of Charlotte’s Democratic base: well-dressed young professionals as well as decades-long veteran party supporters and many weary from spending 12 hours or more at polling places encouraging voters to choose their candidate.
J. Alan Goddard ordered a mixed drink and celebrated the first election in which he was able to openly voice his political views, because until now he has been in active duty military. He campaigned for Jackson all day Tuesday.
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As a gay man, Goddard said, “for me, in my day-to-day life, it’s what’s happening at the state and local level that affects me most.”
Goddard said one of his roles while serving in Afghanistan was ensuring a free democratic election.
“The fact that we can vote without fear of reprisal,” Goddard said, “that’s everything.”
The first bit of bad news rippled through the Mecklenburg County Republican Party’s “Victory Celebration” just before 8:30 on Tuesday night, as a local news station called the 12th Congressional District race in favor of Democrat Alma Adams.
But even though the results looked lopsided, her challenger, Leon Threatt, seemed to take a cue from his party’s top-of-the-ticket candidate a few minutes after the report.
“It’s still early,” he said, in spite of reports that Adams had 70 percent of the vote. “I don’t think the numbers are in sufficient for her to call the race, so we’ll see how it goes.”
A minute or two after that, the three flat-panel TVs on the walls and the giant projection screen on the stage inside SMS Catering’s event space in Plaza Midwood was switched to Fox News; and a minute or two after that, a cheer went up as a graphic showed Donald Trump with an ever-so-slight edge over Hillary Clinton in Florida.
“We’re gonna switch back and forth,” said SMS owner Rob Freeman, “because the local stations will tell us how the House and the Senate races are, and give a better update on the governor’s race. But in general, Fox News, that’s what they all want.”
Freeman co-founded the Mecklenburg County Young Republicans club, but he also co-founded the National Barbecue Association in 1988 – so what was on the menu for the party on Tuesday night?
Enough pulled pork (cooked over the course of almost 18 hours) to feed about 200 people, along with ketchup-based sauce for Western Carolina-style-loving folks and vinegar-based sauce for those who prefer the flavor of the right-hand side of the state.
Both choices, though, were red. Which, of course, was the color of choice for the night.
“We will see a great win for Mr. Trump,” Threatt said, “as well as Governor McCrory, and I’m quite encouraged that our nation, our state and I believe even the 12th is gonna come out on top of this thing. Like I said, I’m not ready to give up yet.”