Yes we did

Yes we did

Voters elect Obama and approve schools bond, but reject gay marriage

By Joe Piasecki , John Seeley , Kevin Uhrich 11/06/2008

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For Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden, celebrating Barack Obama’s ascension as America’s first African-American president was nothing less than a “surreal moment.”

“There are just so many people coming into town and celebrating. It’s just wonderful,” said an ebullient Holden as hundreds packed a ballroom at the Pasadena Hilton to dance, drink and watch Obama’s acceptance speech on a big screen TV. Outside, groups of young people walked up and down Colorado Boulevard and other streets soon after polls closed, chanting “Obama, Obama, Obama.”

“Three words,” said the veteran councilman, struggling to be heard over all the cheering inside the hotel. “God bless America. You always believed something like this could happen, but then you have to look back at what we have overcome and then see this. … That is what I mean by surreal. This is a world celebration.”

Longtime Democrat Ralph McKnight, who is now in his 70s and recalls when black men like Obama might have been lynched for merely entertaining thoughts of running for political office, wept openly as the president-elect spoke to the nation from a victory celebration held in Chicago’s Grant Park that drew 125,000 people.

“When I was growing up in Washington DC, there was this newspaper, the Afro American, and every week — every fucking week — there would be a picture of a black man who had been lynched,” McKnight recalled, his emotions briefly shifting to outrage and then relief. “I’m emotionally exhausted.”

In January, McKnight and Holden founded One Pasadena, a voter registration and education group. That effort and others like it apparently paid off, with 82.3 percent of eligible voters countywide heading to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots.
Earlier in the day, voters at three polling places — the Pasadena Senior Center in Old Pasadena, the Jackie Robinson Center on North Fair Oaks Avenue and the fire station on Avenue 64 on the west side of town — stopped to share their decisions with the Pasadena Weekly.

Few McCain supporters responded — all of them voting at the West Pasadena location — saying they based their decisions on tax policy and political experience.

Old Pasadena Obama fans cited the Iraq War as the driving factor behind their support, while voters in Northwest Pasadena mainly cited the economy. Under Obama, said one 24-year-old Latino chef, “someone coming out of the ‘hood might get a shot at the American Dream.”

While left-leaning voters at the Senior Center and even conservatives in West Pasadena were almost unanimously against Proposition 8 — an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage that, at press time, appeared to have 52 percent support with few votes left to count — the overwhelming Obama support at the Jackie Robinson Center did not translate into liberal votes on that issue. About half of minority voters there said they supported Proposition 8 for religious or moral reasons — several citing the specter of gay marriage being taught in public schools, a notion that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and opponents actively worked to debunk.

“It’s been a hard fight and not a fair fight, with the other side using fear-based advertising to convince voters they needed to protect traditional marriage when what we need to protect is traditional democracy,” said the Rev. Susan Russell of Pasadena’s All Saints Church, where 43 same-sex marriages were solemnized since June. But, continued Russell, president of a national Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, “It’s hard not to be hopeful when we saw what happened with the presidential elections. We made a big step forward in getting our voices out.”

Tonight, All Saints Church will be presenting “Reflections on the Presidential Election: Prospects for Peace and Justice,” a panel discussion on the election featuring remarks by author, activist and former state Sen. Tom Hayden, Occidental College Professor Peter Dreier, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Dr. Maher Hathout and All Saints Rector Emeritus George Regas. The discussion, sponsored by the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative (AFPI) chaired by Regas, will be from 7:30 to 9 p.m. All Saints is at 132 N. Euclid Ave., in Pasadena.

On Nov. 14, the Senior Advocacy Council of Pasadena will host a public discussion of election results at 1 p.m. at the Pasadena Senior Center, 85 E. Holly St.

With more than 96 percent of state ballots counted on Wednesday morning, it appeared that controversial renewable energy Propositions 7 and 10 failed, along with measures that would have required minors to get parental consent before having an abortion and sentencing reform for drug offenders.

Appearing to pass were measures aimed at preventing animal cruelty, giving victims more notification of a prisoner’s parole status, changing the way political districts are drawn and raising funds for children’s hospitals, military veterans and a high-speed railway from LA to San Francisco.

At a gathering at Green Street Restaurant, Board of Education members and other supporters of Measure TT — a $350-million schools repair bond for the Pasadena Unified School District — enjoyed steady support early on that built to a nearly 75 percent voter approval by Wednesday morning with more than 52,000 votes. Though pleased with that result, Board members Ed Honowitz and Tom Selinske expressed worry over expected state budget cuts that could cost PUSD $5 million.
Meanwhile, Democratic state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino handily defeated Republican challenger Brian Fuller, Democrat Carol Liu easily won her bid to replace termed-out state Sen. Jack Scott, and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff overwhelmed Republican challenger Charles Hahn with more than 69 percent of the vote.

But it was the presidential campaign that captured the imaginations of most people attending Tuesday’s victory celebrations in Pasadena and those televised throughout the country.

More than 136 million Americans cast a vote in the presidential race, the highest level of voter participation — more than 64 percent — since William Howard Taft defeated William Jennings Bryan in 1908.
“We always knew it was possible, but tonight just made it real,” said Holden’s council colleague Jackie Robinson at the packed Hilton event. Both served as delegates for Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
What’s next, said Schiff: “A lot of hard work. [Obama] is inheriting tremendous challenges — serious problems in the economy, a war on two fronts, millions without health care and an enormous deficit. It’s a tall order, but I think he has an extraordinary ability to bring people together.”

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