At 1:27 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Greenwich Republican Town Committee (RTC) Chair Stephen Walko called to attention those still gathered at the Milbrook Club.
“You don’t have to go home,” exclaimed a tired but ecstatic Walko. “But you can’t stay here!”
An evening of hugs, high-fives and acceptance speeches at the RTC Headquarters marked a successful election night for the local Republican candidates in Greenwich. However, the night wasn’t quite over for the GOP supporters, as the national election wouldn’t be decided until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Greenwich residents turned out in high volume Tuesday, with lines forming at many polling locations before the doors opened at 6 a.m. sharp.
Town voting officials said that about 150 people were lined up outside the doors of Greenwich High School, which served as the polling place for District 7. At North Street School, the District 11 voting location, a smaller line—about 20 people—formed just before the polls opened.
In total, 80.18 percent of eligible Greenwich voters cast votes in the 2016 elections. In 2012, Greenwich turned out 71 percent of its registered voters while for the 2008 general election the figure was about 90 percent.
“I think it goes to show, when people are engaged, that they come out and it’s important to them,” said Walko. “We love these evenings because I think it shows democracy at its best. We have a very engaged community of friends and family. We think that our message, a message of fiscal responsibility and making tough decisions where they need to be made, resonates with them.”
At Julian Curtiss School, Selectman John Toner was helping the overall turnout percentage by bringing seniors from The Mews, a senior living center in Greenwich, to the polls.
“It’s a great team we have up in Hartford,” said Toner. “They are working hard for us and they will be returned. Hartford is a mess and we have to do something about taxes. We have to do something about trying to live in a budget.”
Republican incumbents state Sen. Scott Frantz (36th Senate District) and state Rep. Fred Camillo (District 151) each won their re-election bid over their respective Democratic challengers, John Blankley and Dita Bhargava.
Livvy Floren (149th House District) and Mike Bocchino (150th House District) each ran unopposed and picked up another term in Hartford.
As local election results started to come into Republican and Democratic headquarters, the immediate focus shifted to turnout and results by district in the local races.
State Sen. Frantz won 10 districts in Greenwich while Blankley picked up a majority of votes in District 3 and 4—both of these polling locations on the west side of town.
In state Rep. Fred Camillo’s win, the Cos Cob native picked up just under 60 percent of the vote (6,245 votes) while Bhargava put up a good fight, tallying 4,166 votes.
Camillo received a roaring applause as he took the podium to chants of his name.
“I can’t thank you all enough,” said Camillo, who kept his remarks concise. “The last two nights I haven’t got much sleep. When it gets like this, sometimes what is coming from the brain isn’t getting to my mouth very well. Thank you to everyone who helped me.”
Frantz told the crowd of over 100 at the Milbrook Club that they should feel very good about this result for Greenwich.
“With what is going on at the national level, I think it is imperative that we all keep in mind that unity is one of the most important things going forward,” said Frantz. “No matter what the outcome is here tonight, we need to get back on the same track to make this country what it was before, which is the greatest and most selfless country known to mankind, ever. This country has been through power transitions multiple times before and has done it peacefully. We need to do that again.”
Bocchino echoed his fellow Republicans on the high turnout for the town just as attention moved towards the national election.
“There are a lot of people who understand the issues and who want to make certain their voices were heard,” said Bocchino. “It’s a great night for the town of Greenwich. On the National side, it’s almost like reality TV.”
For the U.S. House of Representatives, Jim Himes picked up the victory against Republican challenger John Shaban with 54.33 percent of the Greenwich vote. In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Richard Blumenthal received 52.7 percent of the Greenwich vote as he beat his Republican challenger, state Rep. Dan Carter, to win his second six-year term.
Greenwich Voices Heard
As streams of voters entered and exited the polls in the midday rush, often with overflowing parking lots, Greenwich residents made their voices heard loud and clear with each ballot submitted.
At Town Hall, the District 2 voting location, Swati Gupta brought her son with her to the polls to highlight and explain the process and privilege of voting.
“There was too much negativity, on both sides,” said Gupta. “I’d like to see more focus on education and facilities in town.”
A District 11 voter, who gave his first name as Don, said he was happy to see the election cycle come to an end and described it as a “disaster.”
“It’s wonderful that we have a chance that gives you the understanding of the freedom of democracy,” he said. “I voted for Hillary, with questions. I could not vote for Trump. Locally, I voted for Scott Frantz and Fred Camillo.”
His vote for state Sen. Frantz, he said, was due to experience.
“I think [Scott] Frantz is an incredible guy,” said Don. “I was particularly against Blankley because of his extremely negative advertising. It was totally unfair and it wasn’t correct.”
District 6 voter Jenn Stranzl made special plans for Election Day as she traveled from Toronto to Old Greenwich School to make her vote count in what she says is the most important election in her lifetime. Making the trip from Canada—her husband is working there temporarily—was so crucial to the Old Greenwich resident that she didn’t want to vote via absentee ballot.
Outside of Greenwich High School, two high schoolers straddled the 75-foot “buffer” line while greeting voters and getting a last-second push for their candidates of choice.
Just days leading up to Election Day, GHS held its own mock Presidential election, which gave students an idea of how the electoral process works. Hillary Clinton came out on top in the high school vote.
“I thought it was really interesting that it brought the conversation to school,” said Sara Stober. “A lot of the time, teachers don’t really like it when we talk about politics in the classroom. It becomes an argument sometimes in the classroom.”
While unable to vote themselves, Anika Rabenhorst and Stober made it clear why they came out at 9 a.m. to be heard.
“On a national scale, women’s rights is a really big issue,” said Stober. “I think it’s kind of embarrassing to America that we have a candidate that promotes sexual assault. I think another big issue is making sure everyone in America feels accepted and is able to identify as an American.”
After the state delegates made their remarks to the RTC Headquarters, the attention shifted to a pair of screens displaying blue, red and up-for-grabs states in the Presidential election.
More and more eyes were glued to the monitors as each state was called, and as Donald Trump’s lead began to grow past midnight, a lively crowd began to get louder and more anxious as they watched the election of the 45th President of the United States unfold before their eyes.
In Greenwich, though, Hillary Clinton picked up a total of 16,253 votes (56.89 percent) compared to Donald Trump’s 11,096 (38.84 percent).
However, the Milbrook Club was bare when Trump took the podium at 2:47 a.m., announcing his victory over Clinton.
It wasn’t until four minutes past 3 a.m. when the President-elect finished his remarks, while many East Coast voters instead woke up to the news of one of the nation’s largest electoral upsets.
Shortly after Glory Days Diner opened early Wednesday morning, Christine Hauck made her way into the local eatery and ordered a two-egg omelette with a tired and defeated look on her face.
She had fallen asleep before the announcement was made in the middle of the night and had woken up to the news of the United States’ newest President-elect.
“Waking up and finding out Donald Trump had become President, I turned my alarm button off because I thought I was still dreaming and that it wasn’t real,” said Hauck. “I felt like I was in an alternative or parallel universe.”
Hauck had voted early in fear of any Election Day mishaps, but as the 8 a.m. news came on overhead, she was again reminded of the surreal feeling she had waking up that Wednesday morning.
“I never, ever imagined that Donald Trump would be elected President,” she said, watching a TV in the front of the diner. “I feel like so many other Hillary supporters, that she was the most qualified and most temperamentally suited to be President.”
Hauck thought that the Obama administration didn’t communicate well enough what his accomplishments were during his two terms in office. Nevertheless, the mother, student and part-time Greenwich resident left the diner with a slightly sleepy, but somber, half-smile.
“I thought I was still in my dream cycle,” she said.