Republican Watch Party

Elizabeth Witt, Susan Gessler, the Washington County chairwoman of the Trump Campaign, and Sara Terrill celebrate a state victory for Donald Trump at the GOP watch party at Powerhouse Seafood and Grill on Nov. 8.

7 p.m. - Dreariness and wanna-be storm clouds serve as the preamble for the 2016 election finale. As voters cast their final thoughts across the U.S., Washington County Republicans congregate at Powerhouse Grill to celebrate election season and watch the numbers shift beside their candidates’ names. John Boozman and ballot initiatives are the subject of small talk, but many thoughts, including those of Washington County chairman Lance Johnson, are on the night’s championship event. Just off of Dickson Street, Republicans are ready to watch Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton – a real-estate businessman taking on a career politician for America’s executive office.

7:30 p.m. - Polls are closing across the U.S. and the crowd has grown at Powerhouse. The murmurs have been replaced by loud discussion of what the night has in store.

“I had probably over 100 phone calls this week asking if there was a Republican watch party and I told everyone, ‘Yes, right here at Powerhouse,’” says Dillon Allwine, the Republican Party of Arkansas field director.

Allwine says he had people from Bentonville contacting him for details about the event.

8 p.m. - Amidst the ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and Trump-Pence buttons are children, some too young to walk, wearing shirts that say “Your next president.” The primacy principle is in effect here at the watch party. Arthur Anders, a 10th grader at the Don Tyson School of Innovation, says he thinks the election results matter to the youth and knows whoever is president will affect the future of U.S. education.
 

8:30 p.m. - The Powerhouse event room became so crowded that the second floor was opened to watch party guests. Among the scattered attendees are College Republicans President Sydney Combs who scrolls through preliminary results and reads them to her friends.

“I really think it's going to go until the end. The middle of the country only has a few electoral votes, but they should all go to Trump. I think it will be close,” she says.

As of 8:39 p.m. Combs says she isn’t surprised with the closeness of the counted votes.

 

9 p.m. - The press are coming, the cameras are running. KNWA is broadcasting live, 5NEWS is interviewing county judge candidate Joseph Wood and ABC-affiliate 40/29 has just arrived with a camera crew to broadcast from the event. Unofficial Washington County early voting results have Wood with a 52 to 47 percent advantage over Mark Kinion.

 

9:30 p.m. - The party downstairs is erupting with joy. The people upstairs rush down to be a part of the environment. As if the Hogs had just scored a game winning touchdown, every person downstairs rises to their feet to clap, cheer and congratulate each other after Trump wins Ohio. “He won one of the states he had to win,” says Hailee Hampton, a UA junior and intern for the Republican Party of Arkansas. “If he's going to win it all he had to win Ohio.”

 

10 p.m. -  “Win or lose, I knew he would be my candidate for president in June of 2015, and I've followed him ever since,” says Susan Gessler, Washington County chairman for the Trump campaign. “I'm a lifelong Republican.”

Gessler thinks Trump’s message extends beyond his campaign and connects with America.

“I am supporting the man because he has awoken a sleeping giant in the United States,” she says. “Whether you agree with him or not he speaks to the heart of the American people. There is something about him people connect with.”

10:30 p.m. - After Fox News reported that Trump won North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin members of the watch party start chanting “Drain the swamp!”

“‘Drain the swamp’ is Donald Trump’s slogan. The swamp is government spending that Trump wants to drain,” said Ross Hinshaw, a Washington County Republican.

The crowd’s mood grows happier by the minute at Powerhouse as a feat that seemed impossible a month ago emerges as a possibility.

11 p.m. - The nationwide images flashing across every television show a sea of red absorbing lonely islands of blue. The GOP candidate seems to have captured the support of middle America and be on the verge of an iconic presidential upset.

Those in attendance are smiling, chatting and eagerly checking their technology for more results. Like they've just gotten an A in a class they expected to barely pass, the people are thrilled.

Trump appears to have won swing states Florida, Iowa and North Carolina among others, according to NBC News.

11:30 p.m. - The crowd has quieted and thinned. Families have headed home to prepare for tomorrow's day of school and work, leaving only the most serious supporters to celebrate Trump’s potential victory.

“It's going to be a nail biter,” Gessler says. “I think the Republican Party will been changed forever after Donald Trump.”

 

12 a.m. - Joseph Wood wins the County Judge race, John Boozman wins the U.S. Senate race and Donald Trump appears to have won the U.S. presidential race. The Republican watch party quickly turns into victory party at Powerhouse.

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