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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Scenes from the Wisconsin recall: Barrett, Walker camps gathered to mourn and celebrate together
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Credit:Scott Girard

The Great Dane was bustling around 7 p.m., just before Ed Schultz began his live broadcast of The Ed Show on MSNBC. People were lined up out the door waiting to be let in by restaurant staff, who started a "one in, one out" policy since the building had reached capacity.

The energy level inside the restaurant and bar was high and so was the temperature. Schultz even stepped outside for some fresh air during a commercial break.

A director from MSNBC motioned to the crowd to cheer at specific times and the crowd had no problem performing with enthusiasm. After the show wrapped at 8 p.m., the crowd began chanting "Thank you Ed! Thank you Ed!"

Two girls were giddy as they ran out of the restaurant after the show -- their families had seen them on TV. One of them said she came from Nashville, Tenn. to support Wisconsin voters.

In a back room at Halverson's Supper Club in Stoughton, American flag banners draped the walls and 40 supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker assembled to await the results of Tuesday's recall election.

Trish Schaefer, owner of a real estate company and candidate for Assembly District 46, read a parody of The Cat in the Hat criticizing "The New Democrat," Barack Obama. The pictures and rhymes lightened the apprehensive mood in the room. "We have a lot of nervous people here... Cautiously excited," said Nancy Bartlet who was registering attendants.

Robert Arnett of Stoughton felt "a sense of urgency" around this election, believing the stakes to be high. He worked in Fitchburg on the Walker campaign making phone calls and distributing signs. "I hope we don't change course," he said.

Jim Houzner and John Bragg sat in the upstairs bar at the Majestic Theater around 7:30 Tuesday night, getting ready to watch recall election results flow in. Both were Barrett supporters who attended last year's protests on Capitol Square.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Houzner said of voting and watching the results. He had taken off work Wednesday to stay up late and find out who would prevail.

Bragg, a university professor, also didn't have to work and was looking forward to what the night would bring, especially with reports of high turnout in Milwaukee County.

That was before results later showed incumbent Gov. Scott Walker was victorious.

The Capitol Square was lively around 8:30 p.m. as people gathered with signs, some in costume. Decorated cars drove around the square honking at the gatherers. Jim Sommerfield said the mood on the square made him feel "hopeful and uplifted," juxtaposing the tense mood he reported feeling on Tuesday around noon.

The crowd became excited as a procession of firefighters, often the stars of the protests last winter, marched up the Capitol steps playing bagpipes and drums. The crowd expressed appreciation by chanting "Thank you! Thank you!"

The GOP group moved from the back room to the bar because of technical difficulties with the TV they were using. With each small lead announced for Walker, the standing crowd erupted into cheers. Bev Mansfied of Rutland admitted that she wanted the whole thing to be over. She thought the presence of people with political signs shouting about the election outside of her daughter's recent graduation ceremony was over the top. "We just want to get on with our lives," she said.

Dan Berker moved to Madison two months ago from China in order to vote in the recall election. While he planned to eventually make the move for his girlfriend, he left a well paying job to try and make an impact with his vote for Walker. While watching the results trickle in, he worried it wouldn't end in Walker's favor. "If Barrett wins, I'm gearing up for a recall Barrett," he said. "For better or worse I'm making a home here. Hopefully I made it better by voting."

The mood was solemn at the Majestic Theatre watch party as networks began calling Walker's victory before 9 pm. Some in the crowd grew teary-eyed and some just stared at the screen.

Jo Vukelich closed her eyes and breathed deeply as she tried to collect her thoughts.

"I smell a skunk," she said.

Vukelich said she doesn't trust the election and senses voter fraud, intimidation, suppression "and other ugly tricks."

Tony Przydylski was disappointed. He grew up in Wisconsin and returned to the state eight years ago.

"It's not the state I remember," he said. Walker's victory makes him want to leave again, he added.

Chris Gauthier, Alan Schuster and John Sarris gathered around a table, watching MSNBC on a projector screen at the Concourse Hotel. As part of the We Are Wisconsin election night party, they had come to celebrate a Tom Barrett victory. Instead, they got a race called for incumbent Gov. Scott Walker within an hour of the polls closing.

Jay Hanson walked over with four beers in hand, and distributed them to the group. All four men said they were disappointed in the results, and didn't understand how it happened.

"I'm disgusted this many people can have their common sense bought out from beneath them," Hanson said.

Schuster said he hopes a "national movement to limit campaign finance" can start after this election. Sarris agreed, saying the money used for campaigns "makes me sick," when instead it "could pay for schools."

The four men stayed for a while longer, until Barrett gave his concession speech.

Because of the limited television viewing at the supper club in Stoughton, some GOP partiers moved to the 5100 Club in McFarland. They occupied a room with nine televisions broadcasting different Fox channels. The atmosphere was gleeful, with hugs, high fives, and cheering. "I couldn't be happier," said Sandy Bakk. "This is what democracy really looks like when you go to the polls and you live with the results."

Tom Barrett had just taken the stage on the television, and his supporters at the We Are Wisconsin rally were hoping he would challenge the news networks that had called the race for Walker.

Instead, he told supporters he had just spoken with Walker and conceded the race. A rain of "boo" filled the Concourse Hotel ballroom where hundreds of people had gathered.

One supporter followed with a "fuck you!" directed at the television screen, and little applause took place during the concession speech. Afterwards, many in the room left quickly, and the mood among those who remained was somber.

As the crowd thinned in the ballroom of the Concourse hotel, where We Are Wisconsin was holding its election night party, one woman sat glued to the television. Judy Olson was alone in watching Gov. Scott Walker give his victory speech after he won Tuesday's recall election.

She supported Barrett in the recall, and was "surprised" at the margin of victory. However, she was "not that surprised" Barrett lost.

After listening to Walker, Olson said she hoped he would indeed "change his ways" in reaching out to Democrats, but called what he said an "obligatory statement" for a politician.

Looking ahead, her "worst fears" are that Walker will respond to a "far-right agenda," and make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. Additionally, she worries about what the governor and legislature have done with regards to the environment, and isn't sure if it will get better after this election.

The Majestic Theatre began playing heavy rock music during Walker's victory speech, and people aimed red laser pointers at the screen, making it appear as if the governor had red, devilish eyes.

Others slowly trickled out of the theater onto the quiet streets of downtown Madison, saying very little. But some people, mostly younger, drifted into the theater to begin ordering drinks and socializing. One young man bobbed his head in time with the music, angrily shouting,

"I hope you're happy Wisconsin! I hope this is what you wanted!"


[Editor's note: This article has been corrected with the name Trish Schaefer, not Tracy Schaefer.]

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