Red, white and blue balloons and confetti tumbled down over a jubilant crowd reveling in the victorious upset campaign run by Republican Scott Brown in a special Senate election.
“I’ll bet they can hear all this cheering down in Washington, D.C.,” Brown said. “And I hope they’re paying close attention, because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.”
Fire trucks and ambulances sent by the city fire marshal to monitor fire code safety parked outside the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, where supporters crammed into hallways and balconies, laying on couches, many turned away from the overflowing central ballroom where revelers stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
“It’s a groundswell, it was a grassroots groundswell,” said Lisa Gormley, 48, a small-business owner from Sudbury, Mass., who worked as a phone banker for Brown. “The future’s great, we finally have balance in the state of Massachusetts. We finally have a two-party system.”
Randy May, 60, drove 38 hours from his home in Terry, Miss., to volunteer for Brown’s campaign over the weekend.
“It’s about the future, it’s about the grassroots, tea parties,” said May, a professional horseshoe smith and U.S. Army veteran who was wounded in Vietnam. “It’s about the Constitution. The present administration has no respect for the Constitution of the United States. There has been absolutely nothing done in the last year that
has been Constitutional.”
The crowd’s chants of “Seat Him Now!” “41”“People’s Seat!” “Yes We Can” and “Go, Scott, Go!” echoed various themes that arose on the campaign.
Tepid but polite applause followed Brown’s nod to the late Ted Kennedy, who held the seat for nearly 47 years. Brown also introduced his wife Gail Huff, who was absent from the campaign trail due to the appearance of conflict in her job as a reporter for WCVB-TV in Boston.
The crowd roared as Brown lambasted a health-care reform bill pending on Capitol Hill.
“This bill is not being debated openly and fairly,” Brown said. “It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country. We can do better.”
Perhaps the thunderous applause for Brown was matched only by the roar for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“This really does change everything, you know that?” a jubilant Romney told the adoring crowd. “The entire nation is going to thank you pretty darn soon.”
Across town at the flag-draped Sheraton Boston Hotel Ballroom downtown, the mood was grim as polls closed at 8 p.m. and supporters of Democratic opponent Martha Coakley slowly trickled in. The song “Stand by Me” blared as Democratic stalwarts watched the results on New England Cable News followed by Coakley’s concession.
Earlier in the evening, Coakley campaign manager Kevin Conroy and campaign attorney Marc Elias alleged that five ballots pre-marked for Brown had been given to voters in three polling stations. However, the charge of widespread voter fraud has largely been dismissed by state elections officials.
Coakley supporters tried to understand how a Senate seat that had remained in Democratic control for nearly six decades had unexpectedly changed hands all within a period of weeks. Early polling showed Coakley had as much as a 31-point lead in November.
“I’m stunned, I’m really stunned,” said Winnie Burns, 59, of Charlestown, Mass. “I’m trying not to cry and it’s really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Burns, who worked on Democratic campaigns in Massachusetts since 1978, said she had attended Kennedy’s funeral wake and had waited in line for three hours at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and saw the line snake behind her for hours more.
“This is Kennedy country,” she said. “I thought that would have translated into this election. I thought that meant something.”