Barack Obama wins -- and So Does South Florida

It's a victory just to have an election pass without a local embarrassment

Other McCain signs read: “Jesus 4 McCain,” “Keep the Change,” “Vote McCain not Hussein.” A woman in a red pants suit and gold heels flashed a sign reading, “Welfare Recipients for Obama – Spread the Wealth.” After about half an hour holding the sign, the woman in red told her fellow McCain supporters that she was taking a break and would be found at the Blue Martini.

John Kivlon says he’s been at this corner every day for the last three weeks, “except Friday -- can’t forget about happy hour.” Kivlon explained that the group picked out this corner to rally at because of the high traffic and location in a highly Democratic area. He says it’s sometimes hard to tell if passersby are honking at his group in support or opposition. A series of fast, peppy honks normally means someone feels the same way. Those normally come with a smile and wave. A prolonged honk, he explains, is generally angry, and sometimes followed by a middle finger or thumbs down. “We get a lot of trash and coffee thrown at us too,” Kivlon says.

Craig DeVescovi was showing fellow Republicans the collection of Sarah Palin trading cards he’s assembled from eBay. He says he proudly paid $32 for one card alone, and more than $50 for his favorite three cards. “I can’t wait until tomorrow to find out how much they’re worth,” he says, though he isn’t sure if a victory will increase or decrease the Palin card value. A cook at IKEA, DeVescovi also held a green sign saying “Chefs for McCain/Palin.”

Shortly after 6:00 p.m., a BSO deputy arrived when the McCain group had spread across the street, near the shrinking Obama crowd. Danielle Ruggieri, an 18-year-old McCain supporter says an Obama supporter grabbed her arm and twisted after she crossed the street to get closer to the opposition. An Obama supporter called 911 when the scuffle occurred. When the deputy showed up, he separated the groups, sending McCain supporters back to the right side of the street, signs and all. Ruggieri was disturbed by the incident, tearing up as she recounted the events back on the McCain side of the intersection. She says she’s had good, civil debates with Obama supporters. "People mostly like him because he can talk,” she says. "But when people hear he wants to raise taxes and kill babies, they’re like ‘whoa!’” If McCain loses, Danielle explains, “it won’t be horrible until people realize [Obama] can’t do much more than talk.” A teenaged friend chimes in: “it won’t be bad until January 1st, when he takes office.”

-- Michael J. Mooney

Breezin' Through the Vote

I was one of about 500 people who showed up to vote Tuesday morning at a tennis center in Fort Lauderdale’s George English Park. All of us, I think, had watched with tolerant amusement as early voters waited though five- and six-hour delays at early voting sites.

Not for me, I told my antsy friends – all the folks who just had to get their ballots in ahead of time to avoid the expected mother of all Election Day jam-ups. “Election Day is going to be a 30-minute walk-through,” I said.

Many of the tennis center voters, looking at one another in disbelief, had apparently thought the same. Now, here we all were in a long line, creeping step by step toward the voting place. But I learned a lot. I learned from an exterminator how he and his colleagues are getting rid of massive infestation of ficus plants by white flies (“Though I gotta say, it’s been great for business”). Learned which pre-schools are hot and which are not. Learned, from a golden-aged couple, how boys are easier to raise than girls despite rumors to the contrary. Wondered why I wasn’t getting rich by bringing in a coffee cart for all these idle people.

Finally, an hour and a half later, my vote was in. All in all, not bad. A lot better than my friend from Cooper City, who got to his polling place at 9:30 a.m. Sunday and finally voted at 3:15 p.m.

But then I talked to New Times columnist Bob Norman, who walked right into his voting place, no lines, no waits, at 2 p.m. “Remember it next time,” Norman said. “You have to hit the post-punch lull.”

That would be a little before the after-work tidal wave.

-- Edmund Newton

Election? What election?

The Seminole Casino is the older, smoke-filled joint across the street from Hard Rock. When a slot or poker player is in the zone, it seems like gambling is his only care in the world. Not even one of the most exciting presidential elections in history could tear him away from the casino, right?

Don’t wager on it. Of the half-dozen or so gamblers I approached on Election Day at the Seminole Casino, all but one had picked a horse in the race. They spoke semi-excitedly about their “sure-bet,” Barack Obama.

“We need change,” a middle-aged white woman from Davie said. “I never saw so many black people voting before,” she added before lunging to slip her frequent-player card into a suddenly vacant slot machine. No way is she going to lose a hot machine over some political small talk.

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