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A Long Inconclusive Night for Brown and McClintock

6 November 2008 No Comment

By Angela Kilduff

The results of the highly contested fourth district congressional race between State Senator Tom McClintock and Democrat Charlie Brown remained too close to call as of Thursday and may face a recount.

Just around the corner from Brown’s campaign headquarters on Lincoln Street on Tuesday, his supporters gathered at the Roseville Opera House, a large hall downtown. Campaign signs, including “Republicans for Charlie Brown,” hang on the ballroom walls.

In a district where Republican voter registration exceeded Democratic by 15 percent, bipartisan support was critical for a successful campaign. Accordingly, the candidate, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, promoted the message “patriotism before partisanship.”

Brown ran in 2006 against U.S. Rep. John Doolittle and came within three percentage points of the Republican incumbent. Amidst a congressional lobbying scandal, Doolittle announced his retirement in January.

Campaign volunteer Kent Pollack, former assistant managing editor at the Sacramento Bee, shared estimates from pollsters hired by the Brown campaign. “We believe we’re up a little over two [percent].”

Spokesman Todd Stenhouse took the stage not long after Senator Barack Obama delivered his presidential acceptance speech. The atmosphere in the room was heady from the historic victory.

Stenhouse told the crowd, “The margin in the fourth district congressional race is 200 votes.” After a pause, he announced the narrow lead belonged to Brown. “It’s going to be a long night,” he said.

MSNBC, which had showed McClintock leading by a small margin, adjusted the candidates’ standing to a 50-50 tie. These numbers did not change as the night advanced.

Hundreds of supporters gathered in the ballroom. They shared homemade cupcakes and drank beer or coffee while watching the results come in. Many wore Obama t-shirts with Brown pins or vice versa.

Brown addressed the audience after ten o’clock. He said, “I think once all the votes get counted here, we’re all going to be very happy in the morning, but we might have to wait until morning for the final decision.”

Citrus Heights resident Joshua Steward, 28, did not vote for Obama, but supported Brown wholeheartedly. “I was sitting in my backyard, and [Brown] called me,” said Steward, a wheelchair-bound Iraqi War veteran. Steward helped with the campaign when he could and appeared in a commercial with the candidate.

Just before midnight, Brown went home with his wife and daughter. “The numbers are dead even,” he said. He added that he felt “very good” about the race and praised the “lots of good volunteers who’ve been hard at this.”

Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, 41, was one of the last volunteers to leave. She lives in Davis, outside of Brown’s district, but said she believes in Brown. “He’s a very genuine candidate. That’s something I heard again and again from constituents.”

On Wednesday morning, the Sacramento Bee reported that McClintock led by less than 500 votes, but an unknown number of absentee and provisional ballots had yet to be counted.  Neither candidate had conceded.

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