Buena Vista County Democrats joined in a night of celebration Tuesday over the historic presidential election of Barack Obama, while Republicans took solace that John McCain had won a slight majority in the local voting and the county had helped to sweep conservative U.S. Representative Steve King to another term.
On the morning after, even ardent local liberals were reflecting that Obama faces some fierce challenges ahead.
"This feels like history is happening right now," commented one young Buena Vista County voter, who had just cast his first presidential ballot at midday, for Obama. Another voter in Storm Lake said she had switched from Obama to McCain late in the campaign. "It was the abortion issue that clinched it for me," she said. A third declined to reveal his choice leaving the precinct. "I feel it is our responsibility to vote, but I'm not so sure it really even matters who is elected," he said.
Rep. King won 57% of the county vote. Born in Storm Lake, he said he deeply appreciated the county's support.
King now plans to appeal to American responsibility. "I'm going to push the passage of a a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax because that is the solution to our economic crisis," he says.
He said he hopes to help reconnect Republicans with core values. "I plan to lay a path to refurbish the pillars of American exceptionalism and I will be more active and more vocal because the nation requires it," he says.
His opponent, Rob Hubler, called for unity.
"(Starting tomorrow) he (Obama) has to start healing this nation. We want to be brought together, want to be one nation, stop the fighting and arguing and negative campaigning," Hubler said. He felt the economy is the lead issue on most everyone's mind. Voters wanted a change from the last eight years of the Bush administration, and on Tuesday, took action to get it, he said.
King and Hubler each praised their volunteers and the engaged voters of the 5th district. "We were just not able to overcome the name ID," says Hubler. He wasn't able to compete with King's campaign finance power, he admitted.
King won the district 60 percent to 37, and in the five U.S. House races in Iowa, Democrats claimed three seats and Republicans two.
In the Senate, incubent Democrat Tom Harkin easily defeated Democrat newcomer Christopher Reed, 63 percent to 37.
BV County Democrat Co-Chair Diane Hamilton says she felt one issue that drove election night was the costs and loss of life in the ongoing Iraq War.
"I think it's wearing on people," she said.
Hamilton also feels the struggling economy and rollercoaster stock market had an impact on the election results. "But there are so many things that contributed to this presidential victory, it's hard to point to just one," she says - issues like healthcare, unemployment, environment.
Hamilton applauds Obama for catching the attention of people who weren't registered to vote before or didn't pay much attention to politics. "Somehow he got a lot of people involved in the political process that hadn't been," including college students.
Obama easily won the electoral vote, with a projected 349 to 173 margin with 98 percent of the precincts nationwide confirmed. In the popular vote, however, he prevailed by just 52-46 percent, about seven-and-a-half million votes. In Iowa, Obama had a slightly better result, 54 percent to 45.
As BV County Democrat Candidate John Fitzpatrick sat in the District Courtroom Tuesday night waiting for the local election results to come in, he said he felt tired after many long hours of campaigning. "You hope you make a good show," says Fitzpatrick. He was defeated by Republican opponent Rhonda Ringgenberg, 4,270 to 3,599 votes.
While Fitzpatrick lost his own election, he was encouraged to watch results coming in from around the nation. "I think we have a shoe in - I think Barrack Obama has it," he said.
Ringgenberg watched with enthusiasm as precinct counts were tallied and her numbers held. "It's been a long time since we started this (campaign)," she says. Now it's time to get to work."
The other open Supervisors seat went to Democrat Don Altena, Storm Lake, edging Republican Jan Alderton 3,982 to 3,520 votes.
Gary Worthan, Republican State Representative incumbent from Storm Lake, defeated Russ Camerer, with 5,129 votes in Buena Vista County to 2,648 for the Democrat. His eye, however, was on the White House numbers Tuesday night, where McCain held close in the popular vote reports. "I'm really concerned on the national level," he said.
Worthan said he was encouraged for his party, particularly in Iowa. "We've surfaced some good candidates, they've made some good headway," he said. "If we don't flip the Iowa House during this election I think we'll be looking at tax increase proposals."
The GOP actually would lose ground. Democrats gained a seat in the Senate and three in the House - although some races were almost too close to call and subject to rechecking.
Worthan campaigned on the spending issue, citing a 17 percent increase in state spending over the two years under Democratic control. The number one issue for the coming session will be addressing the state budget, he said.
Fellow Republican Steve Kettering, local senator from Lake View, was re-elected to the Iowa Senate, unopposed.
BV precinct workers said 2008 will be remembered as a new kind of election.
Carlene Nothwehr of Peterson said she was frustrated with the new same-day registrations being done at the polls. It complicated matters at the precinct, as opposed to registering in a quiet atmosphere at the courthouse - and while no one was turned away, she said she saw some frustrated voters.
Nothwehr says she had been up since at least 4:30 a.m. that morning and had put in 16 hours of work at the polls as over 71 percent of eligible BV voters flocked to the polls. "But I love it, love being around people," she says.
She feels it was the heaviest flow of people coming through the Marathon precinct that she's ever seen. "Usually we could do a crossword puzzle, but this time we couldn't stop for anything," she says.
Roxy Fudge, who worked a precinct in Storm Lake, says there were a lot of write ins that needed to be counted at the end of the election.
"Donald Duck made it on there again," she says. "It's crazy."
Fudge says while all the precinct workers are all exhausted, it was a stimulating experience.
"We helped a lot of people who walked away happy voters," she said. "They got to take part in this election - they felt good about it."