Election night was frustrating. Not because I wanted the races to fall a certain way (I’ll keep those opinions to myself), but because of how the information was flowing. Even further, I had no Internet access where I was stationed most of the night.
WestportNow works out of a cyber-newsroom. Basically that means our newsroom is wherever there is an Internet connection. For example, I’ve been known to write stories and post photos about a meeting’s proceedings from the public meeting while it is still in progress.
My election night, however, went through a series of stations that had no Internet access. The last time I had net access before midnight was at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. before one poll had even closed. I’m sure people who read the site noticed, and believe me it was just as frustrating to me as it was to the readers who were seeking information.
Following my visit to Town Hall — which included me writing a story from my car in the parking lot — I went down to Democrat headquarters. I was told the local candidates would be waiting for poll returns there, but what I found was everyone gathered around the television. One candidate showed up, and there was a huge sign telling people to go to the Inn and Longshore, which is where the Democrats were holding their election night party for Diane Farrell, who was running for Congress.
I waited a little bit before headed to the Republican party at the local VFW post. While there were few people, all of the local Republican candidates were on hand and it had more of an election night feel. There was a board to filter the poll numbers. People would call from the polls and the numbers were posted. I knew within a half hour who had won in Westport for the state races. I gathered quotes and comments before heading to Longshore.
One would think there would have been Internet access at Longshore because of the scale of the congressional race. The back of the room was lined with video cameras from various news agencies, and many, many newspaper reporters were flowing through the crowd.
The previous day, however, I was told there was no wireless access at Longshore. There’s potentially access from other sources, which is unreliable, I was told, but no official access. I asked if there was any Internet access, and was told no. “We can get you a phone line.” Well, I don’t have dial-up, so that doesn’t help me.
What else that bothered me was the lack of information provided to the crowd. There weren’t any numbers from the race posted anywhere in the room. Everyone was gathered around a large TV — which you couldn’t see unless you were in the first row of people — that was tuned to CNN. That’s how people were receiving information.
The local candidates didn’t even know what had happened. My first job was to find the state representative who had earned a second term. He had no idea he had won, and his family wanted to know the numbers. I had to whip out my notebook and show them the numbers I had written down at the VFW not 10 minutes earlier. Within 10 minutes after I broke the news to everyone, the Republican challenger walked in to congratulate him.
Without numbers, no one in the room had any idea what was going on in the 4th Congressional District race. As far as anyone knew, there were no numbers available yet because that’s what CNN was telling them.
I picked up my cell phone and called both of my photographers who were at the Chris Shays party in Norwalk. I got both voicemails. One returned my call to tell me the news, which was not good for the Democrats. While I was on the phone with him, Shays took his first lead of the night, which he would maintain the remainder of the evening.
I initially assumed not many precincts had reported, but that’s not what Dave told me. Few were still outstanding, and they were the ones in the Republican strongholds. Over the next few hours, Dave would continue to give me updates on how big Shays’ lead was growing.
Many of my sources from Westport realized I was on the phone getting numbers, which I was happy to pass along. I was the only one giving them information. Other reporters weren’t flat out asking for updates, but I noticed them listening in on the conversations.
Shays claimed victory around 11 p.m., and his speech was carried on the television. It was a weird speech that confused people in the room. I figured it was a victory speech although he didn’t sound excited, but then the crowd erupted in excitement. “It says 50 percent of the votes are in.” I was confused. I was told something completely different from my people in Norwalk.
Farrell emerged just after 11:30 p.m. and conceded without conceding. “It appears Chris may have won,” she said. She then said she would concede is he maintained his lead, but a lot of ballots hadn’t been counted.
Both speeches to me were very weird. “I won, I think.” “I lost, I think.”
At just before midnight, I knew I had to update WestportNow so I took my leave from Longshore. I wasn’t sure if I should stick around and wait. I’m thankful I did leave, though, because the official concession didn’t happen until after 1:30 on Wednesday.