Democrats celebrate turnout, shrug off losses at election watch party

The diverse crowd maintained optimism despite some state-wide losses

Democrats counted their blessings on election night, with a mixed bag of results leaving the balance of power significantly shaken in Washington, D.C., and key races were still being counted late into Wednesday afternoon.

The results drew cheers and jeers from the crowd of supporters, volunteers, campaign staffers and fans who gathered in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Phoenix for the Arizona Democratic party’s official election night watch party. 

The anticipatory silence that started the evening was punctuated by laughter and applause as results poured in over CNN, which was broadcasted on a big screen. 

Democrats clinched the House about halfway through the evening, leading to an uproar from one particular demographic that peppered the room: young voters.

Julia McGinnis, a political science junior at ASU, said it was her first time at the polls, an exciting rite of passage.

“I’ve always been very involved as far as talking about politics,” McGinnis said, “but this is the first year where I’ve been able to actually vote and see my vote matter.” 

Other attendees were cautiously optimistic about the chances as each party picked up seats throughout the night. 

“The atmosphere is almost nerve-wracking,” president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at ASU, Catherine Corbett, said. “We are all a little anxious – we are hoping to flip everything blue.” 

The organization has been part of a groundswell of progressive activist organizations that have taken to ASU over the last election season, including NextGen Arizona and student groups like the Young Democrats. 

Isabel Gonzalez, a freshman studying political science, is also part of the group and said she notices a significant uptick in youth voter engagement in recent months, a concept she said is very inspiring.

“I am originally from California. I just came over here for school,” Gonzalez said. “I joined Planned Parenthood Generation Action at ASU, and it really just got me out there and involved with politics, and that’s the reason why I changed my major, and it's just so exciting. I found something that i really want to do.”

See more: NextGen Arizona works with ASU students to promote youth voting

Angelica Romero, a senior studying political science, said the event wasn’t just to view election results, but to celebrate the work of the various organizations. 

“We are here celebrating our accomplishments. We’ve got a lot of the youth out there and voting – we got thousands of people registered to vote,” Romero said. “I feel like the energy is growing, and there (are) more people showing up who are very enthusiastic about the results, so we’ll just have to wait.” 

Romero said that those organizations have been social media savvy, and their efforts have successfully brought young people into the political process. 

“I think this might be the year to make Arizona blue due to all the young people voting,” she said. “The polling location at ASU today was doubled up – it was packed. The energy was felt at the campus, so that is why I am saying that young people are going to mean something.”

One of the largest victories of the night was that of former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Stanton thanked Independents and Republicans in his victory speech, taking a conciliatory tone and asking the nation to come together. 

Beyond simple voter turnout and enthusiasm, other students were interested in the policy positions of candidates. 

Read more: Down to the wire: Arizona candidates campaign at ASU polling location

Attendees affiliated with other organic grassroots movements were also there to see how their efforts turned out.

Nathan Simmons, 18, is the political director for March for Our Lives Arizona, the local chapter of the gun-control advocacy movement that came together after a deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. that left 14 dead. 

The movement aims to get young people engaged in the civic process and specifically tries to promote discussion about gun violence and gun control. Simmons said his organization is seeing a real difference in the discussion around guns on both a state and national level. 

“It is huge, this is the first election in a long time that we’ve seen politicians actually talk about gun violence,” Simmons said.

Simmons said younger voters were fired up in this election, and that the momentum will continue after the election. 

Read more: Activists from March For Our Lives to visit ASU Tempe campus

"We are going to work with our legislatures a lot in the next session. We are going to make sure we see some sort of powerful legislation passed, so we’re for sure not going away anytime soon,” he said. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @isaacdwindes on Twitter.

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