Feeling the pain – A reporter with Quinn supporters on election eve

by Grace Eleyae

Supporters of Governor Pat Quinn gathered at Chicago's Allegro Hotel to await the gubernatorial results.
Supporters of Governor Pat Quinn gathered at Chicago’s Allegro Hotel to await the gubernatorial results.

We now know that Governor Pat Quinn lost his reelection bid, but supporters I talked to seemed truly stunned Tuesday at his election night party as I asked their thoughts on NBC’s announcement declaring Bruce Rauner as the new governor-elect. I hate being the bearer of bad news.

Just hours before, joyous reunions erupted throughout the room—one volunteer recounted to another the calls she had made earlier that day, local aldermen and state legislators greeted their own supporters, and fans of the Rev. Jesse Jackson snapped pictures of the prominent clergyman as he made his way around the party. The excitement in the air was palpable. After a grueling and competitive campaign, these supporters enjoyed tray-passed hors d’oeuvres and complimentary libations.

“Pat Quinn will win! Pat Quinn will win,” they shouted repeatedly. Chanting, cheering and old-fashioned hollering broke out every few minutes as earlier results showed Quinn in the lead over Rauner.

“I believe in Governor Quinn because he helps minorities and women,” said Tolu Onigbanjo, a supporter and volunteer for the campaign.

Military veteran Yvette Jones said she supported Quinn because he “supports veterans. He has to win.”

The more the supporters shouted, the more victory really seemed the plausible outcome. But just after 10 p.m., I received a text message, citing NBC’s announcement of the outcome.

Looking around the room, it seemed like most of the people hadn’t heard the news. Whether it was the drinks, denial, or they just hadn’t heard, plenty of people were still laughing and smiling as they awaited the results from Chicago’s WGN News, the program projected onto the jumbo screen.

But the cheering subsided as Quinn’s lead evaporated.

Still, when I ventured out of the press area to get more crowd reactions, it seemed I was the first person to inform many people of the news.

“NBC said that?” One supporter asked in disappointment.

Deputy Director of the Office of Regional Economic Development for the governor’s office, Angelo Kyle, was still confident in Quinn’s ability to come out on top, despite the announcement.

“I’m still holding out for that other 10 percent,” he said when I told him NBC, and by this point, AP, had both declared Rauner the winner with 90 percent of precincts reporting. By the time Quinn came out to give his speech, most of the major news outlets were calling Rauner the new governor-elect.

After Quinn spoke – without conceding – and exited, camera crews packed up their equipment, broadcast reporters left, and the room started to clear out. By this time, it was close to midnight. Many supporters left with hope that they would wake up to a slew of corrections made by the media, and to an announcement that their beloved governor was actually the winner.

We know now that didn’t happen.

Photos by Grace Eleyae/MEDILL

CAPTIONS:

Prominent members of the community, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up to support the governor.

Black retractable tape barriers divided the room in thirds. The front was for the stage and photographers, the middle was for supporters of Quinn, and the back was for reporters.

The reporter’s section quickly became my home for the evening. Most of the camera operators present had come hours earlier to stake out the perfect spot to record the event.

“I don’t believe in throwing in the towel while votes are being counted,” the governor declared as the crowd roared in agreement. Multiple news outlets were reporting Rauner the winner of the gubernatorial race when Quinn spoke to supporters. He later conceded.