Supporters celebrate as newly elected state Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-32, announces the results of her race. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Election night viewing parties have become a regular fixture in contemporary politics. In addition to being a fun way to end a campaign, they provide candidates with the perfect backdrop for acceptance speeches or a supportive environment in which to concede an election.

Mayor Greg Fischer and Congressman John Yarmuth, D-3, celebrated their respective re-election victories at the event space C2, which holds up to 1,500 guests. Insider Louisville decided to avoid the crowd and camped out at the more modest, but no less jubilant, happenings on the 6th floor of the Crown Plaza Hotel, near the fairgrounds.

The Crowne Plaza was a bipartisan destination on Tuesday night. Metro Council District 21 candidate Nicole George rented a suite near state representative McKenzie Cantrell, D-38, and District 32 state house candidate Tina Bojanowski.

Just around the corner from the Democrats, District 7 Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, the Republican mayoral candidate, hosted a gathering down the hall from a celebration for Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw.

The Democratic candidates had the doors to all their suites open. The hallway was crowded as their various guests mingled with one another, sampling the spread available in each room. Cantrell’s space was the most popular because her celebration was catered by South End favorites Vietnam Kitchen, the Palestinian restaurant Jerusalem Kitchen and Rubbies Southside Bar & Grill.

Around the corner, Holsclaw had to hold off on the celebration for a bit because she had a job to do. Insider ran into her as she was in the hallway talking to aides.

The clerk’s office spent her more than $3 million this year on 700 new voting machines. Holsclaw told Insider the transition to the new machines caused delays in reporting.

Councilwoman Anglea Leet, the Republican mayoral candidate, poses with supporter Phil Brun. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

It was an hour after polls closed and Holsclaw, who was in charge of certifying the results, didn’t even know how she was doing in her own re-election bid (she won).

“It’s the new computers. I didn’t want them hooked up to the internet because I didn’t want anything to happen. Once the numbers start coming out, they’ll come out fast,” Holsclaw explained.

When asked how she ended up at the Crown Plaza on the election night, Holsclaw said it was a party decision. Luckily for her, the election results started rolling out soon afterward and Holsclaw went back to her party.

All the candidates had aides bringing in paper results directly from the clerk’s office throughout the night.

Things were more subdued in Leet’s room as it began to look like Fischer would be re-elected to a third term as mayor. Her party started to thin out as it became more apparent that she might have to make a concession speech.

Bojanowski was the first Democrat to find out that she won. The former teacher will be serving her first term in Frankfort. She got emotional as she read the results to her supporters, who she thanked for knocking on more than 17,000 doors and mailing thousands of postcards.

State Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-38, (third from right) celebrates re-election with the Escobar family. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Bojanowski’s campaign manager, Virginia Woodward, also ran George’s successful campaign for Metro Council. A former official in Governor Steve Beshear’s administration, Woodward has dedicated herself to getting women elected to political office in Kentucky. She was an early supporter of Cantrell, who was re-elected, and said Tuesday night was a watershed moment for women in Kentucky politics.

“This is a turning of the page in Frankfort,” she said. “Bojanowski was a dream candidate. If we can keep recruiting the kind of quality candidates we have here tonight, I think our party is going to have a lot more success.”

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (second from left), D-4, with Nicole George (left), who just learned she won the race for the District 21 Metro Council seat. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

South Louisville resident Manuela Escobar was among the crowd popping bottles of Champagne as Bojanowski, George and then Cantrell learned about their victories.

Escobar, a day care owner, is a Cuban immigrant who has lived in this country for two decades. She and her husband, Enrique, are big Democratic supporters, she said, because of the party’s stance on diversity. Her son, Henry, a junior at duPont Manual High School, even volunteered for the George campaign. He canvassed with the candidate every Sunday this year.

While this was not Escobar’s first election as an American citizen, Tuesday was her first time attending a campaign party. It may not be her last.

“This party is good because we get to celebrate with our neighbors, but next time I’m going to eat more because all this Champagne is going to my head,” Escobar said.

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Michael L. Jones
Michael L. Jones, a freelance journalist and author, covers communities for Insider Louisville. His latest book "Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee" (History Press) received the 2014 Samuel Thomas Book Award from the Louisville Historical League. In addition to his contributions to Insider, his writing appears regularly in LEO Weekly, Louisville Magazine, Food & Dining – Louisville Edition, and Who’s Who Louisville: African American Profiles. He also sits on the board of directors of the National Jug Band Jubilee. Jones and his wife, Melissa Amos-Jones, a physical therapist, live in the Kenwood Hills neighborhood near Iroquois Park.