Nora G. Hertel
Lee: "We have a lot of things that we still need to work on."
Around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, more than 100 Republican supporters filed into a conference room at the DoubleTree hotel on West Johnson Street. Signs and balloons covered the walls, and the mood was festive.
"Everyone's feeling very energized," said Stephanie Kundert, campaign manager for Chad Lee. "A bit on edge as well."
The party was for Lee, who ran against Mark Pocan for Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District. But in the sea of blue that is Madison, it served as a central gathering place for Republicans in the Dane County area.
Mike Herl, chairman of the Republican Party of Dane County, identified guests at the party representing the Edgewood College Republicans, Middleton High School Young Republicans, Monona Grove High School Young Republicans, and tea party groups including We the People of the Republic and the 9/12 Project.
Herl seemed pleased that he didn't know 75% of the people in attendance and encouraged people to "reach out and make some friends."
Kundert anticipated "close races across the board," at the beginning of the evening, but the mood dropped noticeably as results were announced favoring Democrats.
Pocan, as expected, beat Lee in the heavily Democratic-leaning district. With 90% of the votes counted at 1 a.m., WTMJ had Pocan leading Lee with 67% of the vote to Lee's 33%.
When Pocan gave his victory speech, with less than 50% of the votes tallied and no concession yet from Lee, disappointed mutterings rippled through the room.
After Pocan's speech, Lee and his staff left the room to regroup. When they returned, the audience greeted Lee with a standing ovation. His speech was more an expression of appreciation to his family and campaign than a concession speech.
"We have a lot of things that we still need to work on," said Lee. "We will continue this fight. We've got the winning solutions."
The crowd responded with a second standing ovation.
"Tomorrow morning, we'll figure out where we're at," said Herl. "[The liberals] will start plotting and planning at noon tomorrow. We'll have to do the same."