Local Democrats, Republicans react to Obama’s victory

Supporters cheer as they hear results from television that President-elect Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. Alex Brandon, The Associated Press

By Daily Illini Staff Report

When Barack Obama’s presidency was announced, the entire front section of Legends exploded in cheers and clapping. More cheers and even cars honking could be heard from the outside.

Alex Hillmer-McGee, freshman in LAS who is an Obama supporter and was wearing an Obama shirt and pin, said he was speechless.

“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” McGee said.

Another student shared her response regarding Obama’s win.

“He’s truly a pinnacle of the American spirit. It’s about time the U.S. had a minority president,” said Mitchell Paglia, sophomore in LAS.

At 88 Broadway, 138 Lincoln Square in Urbana, chants of “Yes we can, yes we can,” switched to “Yes we did, yes we did,” as the Champaign County Democrats watched the election results.

Both the Champaign County Democrats and Champaign County Republicans eagerly awaited the results of tonight’s election.

“It’s great to see that all of this hard work has finally paid off,” said Melanie Matchett, an Obama campaign volunteer who was celebrating with the Champaign County Democrats.

The Champaign County Republicans, on the other hand, watched the election results at Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St. in Urbana.

“We are disappointed. It was expected but hard to take,” said Stephanie Farney, a Champaign County Republican.

Kristin Williamson, a Republican precinct committeewoman, remains optimistic.

“I believe it will energize the Republican Party to get increasingly more organized in order to identify and relate to current needs of constituents,” she said.

Other Champaign County Republicans, although disappointed, plan to support Obama.

“Obama has obviously built up a sizable campaign,” said Alan Nudo, a Champaign County Republican. “His campaign staff was outstanding, and I am going to support him; he is our new president.”

Meanwhile the Champaign County Democrats are looking for the change they hope will come now that Barack Obama has won.

Linda Abernathy, Champaign township supervisor, said the win will be especially important for black people.

“We all knew it would be big, but I don’t think any of us thought that we would be so impacted emotionally by it,” Abernathy said.

She added that her whole family is excited about it.

“My little 2-year-old granddaughter knows Obama’s face,” she said.

Obama was elected the nation’s first black president Tuesday night in a historic triumph that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself.

The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, the Democratic junior senator from Illinois sealed his victory by defeating Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states – Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.

A huge crowd in Grant Park in Chicago erupted in jubilation at the news of Obama’s victory. Some wept.

McCain called his former rival to concede defeat – and the end of his own 10-year quest for the White House. “The American people have spoken, and spoken clearly,” McCain told disappointed supporters in Arizona.

Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will take their oaths of office as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2009.

Obama has said his first order of presidential business will be to tackle the economy. He has also pledged to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

The 47-year-old Illinois senator was little known just four years ago. A widely praised speech at the Democratic National Convention, delivered when he was merely a candidate for the Senate, changed that.

“It is not a mandate for a party or ideology but a mandate for change,” said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Megan Kelly, Andrea Cheng, Andrew Maloney, Kelly Gibbs and Rachel Small contributed to this report.

Check back with DailyIllini.com for updates throughout election night.