NEWPORT BEACH—The election night party for California Republicans began with enthusiastic speeches by Gov. Pete Wilson and former Vice President Dan Quayle. It ended with bitter disappointment as election results showed Democratic dominance in most key races.
“It's approaching midnight on the East Coast,” Wilson said to open his speech. “Do you know where your president is?”
Wilson's opening line sparked waves of laughter and applause in the packed Sutton Place Hotel ballroom. The black suit crowd chanted “Pete, Pete, Pete,” and sipped wine from plastic cups.
“We can and must be very proud to belong to the party of Matt Fong and Dan Lungren,” said Wilson.
Big-screen televisions on the governor's right had already broadcast winners according to exit polls: Sen. Barbara Boxer would defeat Matt Fong to retain her Senate seat, and Gray Davis would defeat Dan Lungren to become California's next governor.
The stage lights shone off Wilson's damp forehead as his eyes surveyed the crowd. He leaned toward the microphone. “To hell with the polls,” he said. “The only poll that matters is what we do on election day.”
Following Wilson, Quayle led the Republican cheer. He too opened with a one-liner:
“We have just begun to fight,” Quayle said, banging his fist against the podium.
“When the dust settles,” he said, “the Republicans will have a majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, over 30 Republican governors and we are but one election away from the Republican recapture of the White House.”
His speech, which touched on Republican values, anti-abortion issues and military defense, pushed several supporters into a “Quayle for president” chant.
Cal State Fullerton student Natalie Hill was one of many young Republicans at the party. Hill, a health science major, said she came to support the party and to dance. “I support the party because that's what I believe,” she said. “It's about morals.”
Even high school students showed their support for the Republican party. “I've been raised in a strong Christian family,” said Jessica Stice, a 17-year-old Calvary Chapel student. “What Christians stand for is what I look for in a politician.”
By 2 a.m. Wednesday, with 88 percent of the precincts reporting, Boxer led Fong 53 percent to 43 percent. Davis led Lungren 58 percent to 38 percent.
One of the biggest Republican losers in Tuesday's election was Robert Dornan. Two years ago he accused his opponent, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, of voter fraud. This accusation may have cost him in 1998.
“Dornan's accusations and bad choice of words have hurt him exponentially worse than they helped him,” said Republican Chuck Eldridge.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting at 2 a.m. Wednesday, Sanchez led Dornan 56 percent to 39 percent.
As the night wore on (and as election results came in), dancing and laughter turned into departure and silence. Republican supporters emptied the ballroom and walked to the parking lot, heads down in disappointment.
“I think the media plays a large part in the tone and pace of elections, especially with exit polls,” said Carey Preston, a member of the College Republicans Club at Southern California Christian College.
“I think it's unfair for media to determine elections,” Preston said. “It's disappointing.”