DFL: Ellison Victory Party

Trocadero's nightclub, downtown Minneapolis

8:15 p.m.: Keith Ellison and his family step out of the elevator and into a private room on the third floor. Word is that various media outlets were ready to call the race for him before the polls even closed, and a clutch of reporters awaits him. His press person, Bridget Cusick, tries to interrupt the Q&A session several times to tell him the race has been called, but the candidate refuses to say he has won. At his elbow, his wife answers her Blackberry and glances across the huddle at Cusick, who apparently sent the message. She shoves the device under Ellison's gaze. He looks confused for a second. "Look," he says, leaning toward the reporters as if he's about to go off the record, "I'm probably going to win."

9:00 p.m.: On the dance floor at Trocaderos nightclub, Somalis and Latinos chanting, "Keith, Keith, Keith" flank a white couple. Both of them are short and round and covered with buttons and stickers for DFL candidates in minor races. "This is history being made," the man says. "And there's food on the second floor."

9:45 p.m.: Preschool teacher Sarah Warren is sitting at a balcony table. She worked with screaming kids all day and then spent the dinner hour canvassing for Ellison along several darkened blocks on Minneapolis's near north side. She got yelled at—a lot. "They were old and wizened and sort of beat-up people and they were loud and angry. So I decided to be louder and angrier. They'd say, 'I didn't vote and I'm not gonna vote and here's why.' They'd say, 'Things are bad.' And I'd say, 'You think things are bad? Let me tell you how bad they are.' There were a lot of people saying it's not going to happen, it doesn't matter. Then there were a lot of people who didn't even know today was the day to vote. I was trying to get people to focus their anger. One woman ended up saying she'd vote but she wasn't sure her boyfriend was registered." She looks down at the mob scene below. "I'd like to go introduce myself to Keith," she says. "But I'm too scared."

10:15 p.m.: Middle-schooler and Ellison volunteer Ella Masters and her retinue are still occupying a booth on the far side of the now-empty dance floor. Masters canvassed for Ellison in her neighborhood, Seward, and did some calling and odd jobs at campaign headquarters. "Keith is just a great guy and I just got involved," she says. "He's very honest—you can tell." When Ellison gets to Washington, she hopes he will take up the cause of education first. "We lost our band program," at Anne Sullivan Communication Center, a K-8 school, she says. "We lost English as a Second Language, we lost sports, we lost so much." About 10 minutes later, Masters's mother wanders over and says they need to leave. The kids groan, even though almost everyone of voting age has already left, heading either to the bar or to the DFL party in St. Paul.

11:00 p.m.: Two bleached, coiffed, and emaciated women in gauzy ball gowns are perched on a bench just inside the door of the club. The rhinestones encrusting their stilettos must weigh half a pound. They're casting nervous looks back at the bar and its decidedly more down-market partygoers. Outside, a long line of people waits for the valets to retrieve their cars. "This would all just be going fine," the woman matching claim checks to keys grouses loudly enough for everyone to hear, "except that some people feel they are entitled, you know? Like a $20 bill should make something happen." A valet zips up in a silver SUV and the women practically bolt from the building.

 
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