It was a festive scene at Londel’s restaurant in West Harlem on Tuesday night, where red, white, and blue balloons surrounded an optimistic crowd at Rep. Charles Rangel’s victory party.
Rangel won re-election to the House of Representatives in a landslide, and as news outlets called state after state for President Barack Obama, CC ’83, the packed restaurants exploded in cheers.
“It’s the longest hour of the year,” said Iesha McTier as she checked her watch around 10:30 p.m., about an hour before CNN projected that Obama would be re-elected. “I was here four years ago when he won, and I have a good feeling this time.”
Lisa Logan, owner of the Nail Suite, a nail-painting salon a few blocks away from the restaurant, operated a table where partygoers could get Obama heads and campaign logos painted on their nails for $5 each.
“It’s thumbs up for Obama,” Logan said. While she also brought Romney nails—“you never know”—she said she hadn’t sold any yet.
Beyond their nails, many partygoers sported other, more traditional campaign memorabilia—including one “47%” T-shirt, a reference to Romney’s now infamous comments about Americans who pay no income taxes. Even the waiters maneuvering through the crowd wore Obama pins.
But Sophia Watkins, who wore a half-dozen Obama pins on her scarf and had more in her bag, was the most decked out. Watkins, who was also at Londel’s in 2008, said she feels that Obama’s family “is just like me.”
“He has honesty, you can really feel that,” she said, noting that she didn’t mind standing in the cold as she waited to vote for him this morning.
She added that she’s been so nervous lately that she’s had trouble eating and drinking.
“Between Sandy and the election, I’ve lost about 15 pounds,” she joked.
Many partygoers said they’d seen a large Election Day turnout in their Harlem communities. Malik Small, who was having dinner with his wife Nichole, TC ’98, said there were long lines at his voting place on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and 145th Street.
“Every strata, every type of person was in the voting line, ready to exercise their right of voting,” Small said. “You don’t see that all the time, especially in communities of color.”
Victoria Stevens, who voted “first thing” in the morning near her Bronx home, said turnout was “the greatest I’ve ever seen it.” Stevens, an Ohio State University graduate, spent the rest of Election Day calling Ohio residents from Obama campaign offices in the Bronx and on the Upper West Side.
“Before I worked the phones, I didn’t feel very good, but talking to people made me feel optimistic about it,” she said.
Politicians swept through the victory party as well, shaking hands and patting backs.
“I’m feeling great,” City Council member Inez Dickens said as she breezed by a reporter. “We’re going to win—we’ve got this.”
Harlem stalwarts like Rangel, Dickens, former mayor David Dinkins, and State Assembly member Denny Farrell all attended the party. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer made an appearance with Julie Menin, a candidate for borough president.
“There’s so much energy here,” Menin said. “It’s a great night for Democrats, both locally and nationally.”