Eight years ago at Alice’s Champagne Palace when President Barack Obama became the first African-American elected president, a crowd of about 100 whooped when the national television networks declared him the winner.
Tuesday night, many in the crowd at the historic Pioneer Avenue bar hoped for another first: the first woman elected president. History happened, but not the way many expected, when Donald Trump, a New York businessman with no electoral experience, overcame a career politician to win the presidency
“I think it’s a miracle he won and it’s a miracle he won as much as he did. The Lord works in mysterious ways,” said Philemon Morris, a Kachemak City Trump supporter. “Something happened here that surprised everybody, even me.”
In a press release, District 31 Republican Party chairman Jon Faulkner congratulated all the candidates who ran.
“While disappointing to some, this election reminds us of the power we, the people, have to change our government,” he said. “Today we celebrate our freedoms, our democracy and the high honor we have to exercise this trust for all generations to come.”
In 2008, Obama’s victory came early, about 7 p.m. Alaska time. This year the evening wore on and as Trump racked up states, it became more and more probable he might win. With big states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin still undecided about 9:30 p.m., a Chicago Cubs baseball fan watching the results made the comparison to the World Series, when the score was tied.
“It’s the ninth inning of game seven,” said Deborah Boege-Tobin.
Others were more pessimistic.
“I have never imagined actually Trump as president,” said Bette Van Dinther. She wore a white scarf, the symbol of suffragettes, in support of Clinton. “I never allowed myself to, but now — now I have to imagine it.”
East End Road farmer Wayne Jenkins put it more simply.
“OMG and WTF,” he said.
Speculation became reality about 10:30 p.m. when networks called the election for Trump. Trump made his victory speech early Wednesday morning New York time, while Clinton conceded in a speech on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, NBC gave Trump 279 electoral votes to Clinton’s 228, with Arizona, Michigan and New Hampshire still too close to call. Clinton held a slight lead in the popular vote, though, with 59.6 million votes to 59.4 million. If she holds that lead, she would join former vice president Al Gore as a Democratic Party candidate to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College vote.
In Alaska and House District 31 on the lower Kenai Peninsula, results mirrored Trump’s Electoral College victory. Alaska voted 52 percent for Trump to 37 percent for Clinton. Trump got even more votes in District 31, with 57 percent to 32 percent for Clinton. Clinton won in two District 31 precincts, winning 48 percent in Diamond Ridge and Kachemak/Fritz Creek. Voter turnout statewide was 48 percent and 46 percent in District 31.
In the District 31 House Representative race, incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, ran unopposed in the general election and won with 95 percent. In the District P Senate race, incumbent Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, also ran unopposed and won with 96 percent.
In state races, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski beat five other candidates, taking 44 percent statewide. Libertarian Party candidate Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in the Republican Party primary in 2010, only to lose in a historic write-in campaign, finished with 30 percent. Democratic Party candidate Ray Metcalfe took 11 percent, behind independent candidate Margaret Stock at 14 percent.
In District 31, however, Miller beat Murkowski 35 percent to 33 percent, with Stock at 20 percent.
Ballot Measure 1, which would allow automatic voter registration when people apply for Permanent Fund Dividends, won statewide with 63 percent to 36 percent. Failing was Ballot Measure 2, which would have amended the Alaska Constitution so the state could borrow money on behalf of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation.
Also on the ballot were judicial retention of 21 Supreme Court, Appellate Court, Superior Court and District Court judges. Voters approved for retention all the judges, including Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy. Murphy got 59 percent “yes” statewide and 56 percent in District 31.
In the presidential election, Morris called Trump’s victory “unquestionably a game changer.”
“The question is, what can one guy — he’s got to deal with all the problems — how’s he going to deal with them? It isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “I’m all in favor of what happened, but we have to stir up the pot. Well, the pot’s stirred up.”
Morris said the Democratic Party, the Republican establishment and the mainstream news media are “toast.”
“Look at it. It’s crazy. These guys were totally clueless,” he said.
Speaking for himself and not as District 31 GOP chairman, Faulkner said, “There’s a lot of apprehension out there clearly among Republicans. You’ve got the Joe Miller (supporters) who are disenfranchised from the Lisa Murkowski’s supporters who feel isolated from other Republicans.”
Clinton supporters had gone into the election buoyed by polls that predicted a Clinton victory, although many of the predictions state-by-state showed a Clinton lead within the margin of error.
“All day long my friends were saying how happy they were, They were so excited,” Van Dinther said of the prospect of a woman being elected president. Her mood changed as the tide turned against Clinton. “Now, I’m just not excited.”
Another Clinton supporter, Peggy Paver, said the Trump victory terrified her.
“I did not expect to be at this place, at this moment,” she said Tuesday night. “It’s disheartening. I believe the American people are smarter than they are.”
The volatile nature of many of Trump’s statements throughout his campaign leave many Homer residents feeling shocked and disappointed with the election results.
“Donald Trump is the most unqualified person ever to be elected president of the United States,” said Dan Boone. “He has absolutely no qualifications unless misogyny, bigotry, racism, serial polygamy, and narcissism are qualifications to be president.”
Trump’s divisive campaign strategy appealed to many Americans in a way that both major political parties previously thought impossible, said Dan Lush.
“The commonly accepted wisdom was a person who alienated many of the diverse groups of this nation like Mexicans, like Muslims and, let’s face it, women, could not possibly win,” Lush said. “Trump went totally against that wisdom and went straight for the white 70 percent and fooled everybody. That’s not the kind of America that I want. I’ll keep working for the kind of America that I want.”
However, there are Homerites who are not worried about Trump’s words.
“He’s a typical American male,” said Jim Craddock. “The only difference between him and anybody else is he doesn’t mind saying it in front of people.”
Craddock voted for Trump because he is not a politician who is in the pockets of corporations. America needs a change from politicians who make promises and get nothing done, Craddock said.
Bill Schoppert also enjoyed seeing Trump win. Schoppert voted for Trump because he believes the new president-elect will be good for America’s military.
“I think he’ll be one of the greatest presidents we ever had,” Schoppert said. “He is decisive. I voted for him because (the president is) the commander of the military and they need someone who makes decisions right away.”
Now, on the other side of the campaign trail, talk turned to Americans finding a way to reconcile with one another.
“There is and was a lot of conduct on both sides of the aisle that broke new ground and eroded everyone’s respect for debate, no question about that,” Faulkner said.
He had a suggestion about how Americans can heal the divide.
“Be neighborly,” Faulkner said.
He also called for more transparency in the press.
“What I see and what I hear through the media has less respect than it should and less respect than ever. I think that’s hurting society,” Faulkner said. “I think media has a role to play here. I mean that on both sides.”
As the country moves forward from the election, the minds of Homer voters from both sides of the aisle ponder if and how Trump will fulfill his campaign promises. Though Trump supporters are pleased with the outcome, they also don’t exactly know what to expect from the new leader of the free world or if he is the answer to their frustrations.
“I didn’t think it’s a solution. I think it’s the beginning of a quiet revolution. How far is it going to go? I don’t know,” Morris said. “The people knew what they were doing. This was not a mistake. This was pissed off people, millions of them. Now that question is, ‘What do you do now?’ I have no idea.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anna Frost can be reached at email@example.com.