Election Day wanes with parties, polls

As polling places around UMN went dark, the DFL and GOP celebrated in dramatically different ways during the pandemic.

Jason Lewis, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, checks in with his campaign team before delivering a speech at the GOP election event in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Country music blared through the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington as the GOP’s Election Day party took on a very different tenor than the DFL’s more subdued approach.

With handshakes and beers abounding, the GOP was more lax about COVID-19 precautions than the DFL, which mostly allowed media and politicians into its gathering at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Paul. At the DFL party, most attendees wore masks throughout the event except for speeches, and guests’ temperatures were taken before entering. GOP attendees greeted each other with handshakes; some did not wear a mask throughout the duration of the event, and some took it off during conversations.

The DFL announced multiple winners throughout the event, including U.S. representatives Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips, state Sen. Kari Diedzic and state Rep. Mohamud Noor.

Ryan Winkler, majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said in a speech that the DFL is united in “taking on Minnesota’s deep racial divides,” emphasizing police reform and accountability, closing educational opportunity gaps and improving healthcare accessibility.

“We are united to do the work of the people. And we are united, because we see each other,” Winkler said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other DFL lawmakers emphasized high voter turnout throughout the event.

“There were a lot of people trying to make it hard for us to vote over in the Republican Party,” Klobuchar said at the event. “We know that we had more than 1.7 million votes that were cast before Election Day.”

Republicans from around the state showed up in Bloomington to show their support for GOP candidates. Stefanie Moradiellos, a resident of St. Paul’s Como neighborhood embraced the GOP election party as an opportunity to connect with likeminded people.

“[I’m excited about] meeting other people that feel the same and stop feeling like we have to hide, like I have to in my neighborhood,” Moradiellos said.

GOP candidates emphasized that Twin Cities area voters are ready for a change in leadership after the difficulties of COVID-19 and the movement to defund the police.

“They’re ready for fresh voices around the country,” said Diane Napper, GOP candidate for state Senate District 63, which covers multiple south Minneapolis neighborhoods and a portion of Richfield.

Jason Lewis, a contender for Smith’s seat in the U.S. Senate, said he thought his campaign resonated with voters in Greater Minnesota who have not had their voices heard. Lewis said voters are disillusioned by the radical positions of the Democratic Party, and he thought these voters would provide an edge over opponent Tina Smith.

Lewis added that he believes his support for opening up the state has helped mobilize the youth vote in his favor.

“We feel as though we’ve resonated on making sure young people aren’t perpetually locked down and socially isolated,” Lewis said.

Lewis chose not to wear a mask at the event, despite mask requirements at the hotel venue.

“If people are worried, they should wear a mask, if people are concerned, or have underlying conditions or [are] elderly, they should stay home,” Lewis said. “But you can’t tell a free people in a free country ‘Hey, you can’t go here, you can’t go there, you can’t go to school, you can’t open your business and what to wear.’”

After midnight, the Associated Press announced that Smith won the race for the U.S. Senate seat.

Meanwhile, many speakers at the DFL election party didn’t hold back on critiquing the Republican party’s response to COVID-19 across the state and the nation.

“If we actually approached this with a scientific lens and a grown-up ethic, then we would be dramatically further along in terms of reopening our economy than we are,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily.

Results are still pouring in, as officials continue counting record-number absentee votes in Minnesota. Some results won’t be official until days after Nov. 3. While DFL speakers urged patience, the GOP was much more insistent on knowing ballot counts on election night.

GOP officials announced District 3 Congressional candidate Kendall Qualls’ loss at the event. Qualls was in good spirits as he accepted the loss, telling the cheering crowd, “don’t give up and fight until the end.”

While the parties continued past 8 p.m., polling sites around the University went dark. Van Cleve Park in Southeast Como had few voters casting ballots in the last half hour. Weisman Art Museum saw a steady stream throughout the day, according to an election judge, but was mostly quiet as the polls closed.

Nyakueth Biel, a University senior, was the last person to hit the polls at Weisman. She showed up to vote blue, because “every vote matters.”

Evan Berg, Samantha Hendrickson, Hana Ikramuddin, Lydia Morrell and Ava Thompson contributed to this report.