‘I’ll never stop fighting for you’

“This sucks,” a member of VCU’s Young Democrats shouted Tuesday night at The Canal Club after it was announced that President George W. Bush won Arizona’s electoral votes.

At Sen. John Kerry’s concession speech Wednesday afternoon, audience members probably were thinking the same thing.

Kerry said that he did not want to put America through a drawn-out legal process to decide the election, so he called President Bush at about 11 a.m. to congratulate him. He said the number of absentee ballots simply weren’t enough.

“In America it is vital that every vote count, and that every vote be counted,” he told the country on national television. “But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance we would prevail.”

Kerry stressed the importance of a unified America, adding that the Democratic Party needed to continue to stand “true to our best hopes and ideals.”

“In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor.”

But Election Night, Democrats rallied at The Canal Club confident that Kerry would pull an uphill victory.

“10 o’clock on Election Night 2004,” Gov. Mark Warner told party members at the The Canal Club Tuesday night referring to the voter pattern set four years ago. “It feels like 10 o’clock election night 2000.”

Both Warner and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said they were proud of the Democratic-voter turnout in Virginia.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Warner said explaining that the vote tally from Northern Virginia probably would not occur until at least 5 a.m. “It’s as tight as predicted but I’m confident we’ll win. … We figured that the president would hold onto Virginia but statewide we are pleased so far with most of the results.”

Kaine was hoping that Northern Virginia would be a Democratic stronghold.

“Right now the Republicans have Virginia, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We’re still waiting for numbers to come back from Fairfax County, which is the biggest jurisdiction in Virginia. These numbers would be pretty favorable for us, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed on that.”

After 7 percent of Iowa’s precincts were reported at 10:30 p.m., Kerry was ahead in the state. The Canal Club erupted in applause.

“When the Republicans are ahead it’s that they’re only at 7 percent (of the precincts), but when it’s the Democrats we’re like ‘Woohoo,’ ” Garan Kelly said.

Peter Feddo, vice president of the Virginia Young Democrats and President Emeritus of VCU’s Young Democrats, felt the enthusiasm as well.

“Tonight is pretty exciting,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how things turn out. After working the polls today the enthusiasm for John Kerry to be the next president – it’s pretty exciting.”

The Canal Club crowd slowly began to leave at about 10:45 p.m. after the mood turned somber when Bush won Arizona.

“I still think we’re going to win, but why not think that?” Kelly asked.

Bonnie Nemeth, a VCU graduate student studying gerontology, said, “If we don’t (win) we have four years to cry.

“(But) I think we’ve got a good shot. … I’m being positive not just for us, but for the world. This election affects the world.”

In his concession speech, however, Kerry said he would not let the American people down and will continue to fight for job growth, affordable health care and the environment.

“I believe that all of this will happen, and sooner than we may think because we’re America and America always moves forward,” he said.

Despite his somber demeanor, Kerry expressed his gratitude throughout the speech. He thanked family members, supporters and the “great band of brothers who crisscrossed this country on my behalf through 2004.”

“They worked their hearts out. And I wish you – you don’t know how much – that I could have brought this race home for you, for them.”

Philip Bogenberger contributed to this report.

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