VERNON - No matter how cynical I sometimes feel about politics, I have to admit, covering election night is a rush.
As a journalist, I get a front row seat to the whole thing. I get to be there, with the candidates, their families, friends and supporters when nerves are the absolute highest. It can, at times, feel like sensory overload — the boisterous cheers, the bumping of shoulders, the smell of sweat mixed with something greasy wafting over from the appetizer table.
So, a few firsthand observations that didn’t make it into my election story from Tuesday night.
First off, it’s interesting to point out where each candidate chose to spend the night. My first stop around 8 p.m. Tuesday was NDP candidate Barry Dorval’s headquarters for the night: the Elks Lodge. Located downtown across from the Greyhound station, the no-frills venue was pretty quiet when I arrived (it was still fairly early for election night). A handful of supporters were there, and a reporter, seated at fold out tables. No tablecloths. No balloons. No banners. No sign of Barry yet.
Next I headed over to Sir Winston’s Pub, the chosen watering hole for the Green Party (their counterparts in Kelowna went to the trendy BNA Brewing Co.) Supporters sat at a long table, enjoying a pint and likeminded conversation. The mood was upbeat — jokes were cracked, peace signs flashed for photos, smiles everywhere. Candidate Keli Westgate was in another room, doing an interview, so I headed on to Liberal MLA Eric Foster's party.
In usual fashion, the two (now three) term MLA was set up at the Schubert Centre for the night. There was a steady stream of people heading into the hall when I arrived around 8:30 p.m. By then, polls had closed and all eyes were glued to the T.V. screen. You couldn’t look in any direction without seeing a ‘Re-elect Eric Foster’ banner. There was a nice spread of catered appetizers, colourful balloons, and white table cloths on every table. There was a certain confidence in the room.
The already positive mood kicked up a notch when Foster arrived, and went absolutely bonkers when news broke, shortly after polls closed, that he’d won. What I found most poignant was how quickly Foster ducked away from the crowds, and quickly pulled out his phone. I asked him later, and he said the person on the other end of the line was his mom, who got up at midnight to watch the election with Foster’s sister.
It was also uplifting to see some young people getting involved in election night, in particular a bright-looking young man keeping score of the votes as they rolled in at the Liberal base. While others enjoyed a beverage or an appie, this fellow was all business running back and forth, posting tallies from the polling stations. He said he was doing it because he felt like it was important.
I caught the end of NDP candidate Barry Dorval’s concession speech. He choked back tears thanking the first person on his long list — his wife — making clear just how much candidates, and their families, invest in these campaigns.
Working from my car at the end of the night, I watched a man and a woman slowly pushing grocery carts down the sidewalk. Vernon’s rising homelessness issue is no secret and has been a major conversation at every political level in recent years. Seeing these two people snapped me out of election fever and reminded me of the very real issues at stake. Nevermind the hugs and handshakes happening at every candidate’s wrap-up party that very minute — it’s what they all do tomorrow that really counts.
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