Under the umbrellas and pink lights of the Dale Street Caf, toothy smiles and blue Dan May buttons glimmered in the twilight.
Cautious optimism slowly gave way to bubbly joy, screams and laughter piercing the chatter periodically as new election results flashed across a TV screen. Everyone here seemed ready to forget the 4th Judicial District Attorney election four years ago, when May lost the Republican primary to rival John Newsome. This time, it was different May was going to win.
"Oh my god, I'm so excited," blurted Matt Blonder, May's son.
A group of mothers sitting around a patio table were equally goofy with glee. They said they supported May because he's setting a good example for their high-school-aged children. Mayor Lionel Rivera and his wife, Lynn, made a grand entrance. The mayor has long supported May he even collected signatures to have May's name placed on the ballot this year.
Melissa Nussbaum sat beside her 90-year-old mom, Betty Musik, who just voted for her first Republican. Musik said she took the leap because the situation with Newsome "needed to be straightened out," not because she plans on changing parties permanently. (Nussbaum, a Republican had a good laugh about this.)
There's hardly any doubt that Newsome lost his campaign for re-election due to scandal. First, a KOAA-Channels 5/30 News crew taped him downing 134 ounces of beer and driving a county-owned vehicle. That report prompted May to enter the DA race, petitioning onto the ballot at the last minute.
Later, allegations surfaced that Newsome wasn't in any hurry to pay back taxpayers when he used the government's money to pay for a trip to a football game. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations and prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office are still investigating that charge.
Perhaps Newsome knew he would lose the election; it seems telling that he decided not to throw an election party.
Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Newsome said he was focusing on the work he had to do over the next few months, including prosecuting criminals and working on the county budget.
"I think that's what the public would want from us," he said.
He said he will work with May to ensure a "smooth transition," and that he plans to help his deputies and staff, both those who will stay in the office and those who will choose to leave. Newsome added that he's not sure what he plans to do when he leaves office, though he's received job offers already.
May, for his part, was exuberant Tuesday night, hugging supporters who threw around words like "decency" and "good guys" as they nibbled on hors d'oeuvres. The hours ticked down. May's lead never wavered, at more than 20 percentage points.
"That's pretty amazing, considering we were told we wouldn't even be able to get the 1,000 petition signatures," he said, beaming.
When it started to become clear that he had scored a landslide victory (final votes show he won 30,916 votes to Newsome's 19,671), he shared smiles with friends like attorney Martin Nussbaum, who told May affectionately, "You stuck your neck out, and nobody cut it off!"
The victory means May will be the next DA, since no Democrats have entered the race.
Turnout helps Waller
Other GOP leaders relieved at seeing Bruce ousted from state House
Mark Waller knew he needed a strong turnout of voters to have the best chance at unseating state Rep. Douglas Bruce in the House District 15 Republican primary.
And in the end, with nearly 8,000 people voting 50 percent more than in 2006 Waller won the seat with 52 percent of the vote. Since nearly every county GOP leader had endorsed him over the combustible Bruce, he admitted he was a little surprised at his small margin of victory, just 320 votes. But, Waller noted Tuesday night, "He's got 21 years of name recognition in this state.
"He's probably the most well-known politician in Colorado, and I think the fact that we were able to overcome that shows a lot."
Bruce was unreachable for comment on Wednesday morning.
Many local Republicans turned out Tuesday to show their support at Waller's election party at the Fox and Hound Pub & Grille off Powers Boulevard, including state Reps. Larry Liston and Marsha Looper and City Councilwoman Margaret Radford.
Though clearly excited by Waller's victory, most seemed at least equally relieved about Bruce's defeat.
"It's great that we're finally going to have representation in this district," said Amy Lathen, who replaced Bruce as El Paso County Commissioner after he was selected for his House seat in 2007. "You might have a potential candidate agree with the current representative on nearly every issue, but you always need to ask about effectiveness. That's been lacking in this district so far, and I'm excited that that's about to change."
Added Liston: "Whether they know it or not, the people of District 15 haven't been represented for the last eight months."
Though Waller knew he was seen largely as the "anti-Bruce," the local attorney and Air Force reserve officer was quick to defend his own platform.
"I knew going into this that we don't differ on many of the issues," Waller said, "but I felt like I could be a more active voice, and I felt like my training and experience have given me the communication skills to be effective in Denver.
"I'm excited to show people that I'm not just Bruce's negative. I'm also the right man for the job."