By Michael Regan and Neale Gulley, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Voters across the nation descended upon polling places Tuesday as various political campaigns ramped up last-minute efforts to get out the vote.
In Erie and Niagara counties, Democratic and Republican committee members prepared for the evening's events, where politicians strolled in throughout the night for victory or concession speeches.
The Niagara County Republican Committee held its election night caucus at Lock 34 in Lockport, where Sen. George Maziarz was on hand.
County Republican Committee Chairman Michael Norris said requests continued to stream in for Romney-Ryan lawn signs, as they had in the final days leading up to the election.
"We've been receiving requests constantly. The momentum is very strong and we're very optimistic," Norris said.
That optimism early in the night would give way to a hard political reality as news reports displayed on televisions in a downtown Buffalo ballroom that served as the setting for area GOP leaders showed President Barack Obama had won the election.
In Erie County, the Democrats met at the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo, the mood in the evening was equally tenuous, giving way to reserved optimism as returns showed Obama with slim leads in many key swing states.
The mood at both election night gatherings was fairly subdued, with many races remaining too close to call until later in the evening.
"The mood is cautiously optimistic, nobody's breaking out the champaign or crying," North Tonawanda city councilman Rich Andres said from GOP headquarters. He and others spent time upstairs at the Avant, in a private gathering where party leaders watched returns.
Several party members tied to the Tonawandas made the trip to Buffalo Tuesday evening, including Andres, former congressional candidate and NT council member Brett Sommer and City of Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi's wife Christine Pilozzi.
While the presidency was called in favor of Obama a short time later, 11:14 p.m. — two hours after New York state went to the Democrat — Republicans by and large saw reason to be optimistic regarding several local races including that of Erie County comptroller, which was too close to call Tuesday night. Republican Stefan Mychajliw was neck and neck with incumbent Democrat David Shenk late Tuesday.
In the 60th state Senate, Mark Grisanti handily won a three-way race with 50 percent of the vote. Grisanti broke with party rank and file in helping legalize gay marriage in the state, causing some to question his re-electibility.
Longtime State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, held a substantial lead late Tuesday against Democratic Challenger Amy Hope Witryol, and the race for the 27th Congressional District was called by The Associated Press for Republican Chris Collins over incumbent Rep. Kathy Hochul — the GOP's biggest prize locally on the evening.
In North Tonawanda, where Democrats hold a decisive edge in enrollment numbers, most of those interviewed on Tuesday at polling places including City Hall said they had used their votes for President Obama.
John Lukasik, the former city alderman and two-time mayoral candidate, said he chose Obama as his candidate, betting that the president would be best suited to fix the the country's dire economic situation after a near-depression in 2009.
"We've been coming out of the recession slowly an we've gained some momentum," he said.
Brian Soos, who left the polling station Tuesday, said he's concluded that Obama's viewpoints on Medicare and the role of government aligned with his own political philosophy.
"And basically, I just don't like Romney," he said.
And Juanita Joyce also said she favored the president, citing the end of the war in Iraq, treatment of veterans and the death of Osama Bin Laden, as just a few of her reasons to throw her vote to Obama in addition to his economic viewpoints.
"What would have happened to all those people in Ohio if he didn't bail out the car industry?" she wondered aloud. "I think he deserves four more years."
Still, there were many who felt Romney would be the best person to lead the country.
Ray Kent, who lives near Orchard Park, travelled to Buffalo's GOP gathering Tuesday, and said employment is the issue driving his support for Romney. Obama's resistance to the Keystone pipeline proposal, he said, is unacceptable.
"We need more jobs, it's the only way the economy will get any better," he said. "The criticism of Romney and Bain Capital and all that is totally unfounded. Everything he's touched has turned to gold."
While Kent said he doesn't always vote down party lines, he said the slate of GOP candidates locally and nationally simply appealed to him more this year, largely because of business savvy and private sector experience.
Jim Zezzo, a registered Republican, said he often follows the party line at the polls, though it was social issues like abortion and Obama's health care law that gave his vote to the challenger. He remained confident on Tuesday that Romney would win the election, even as national state polls appeared to tilt the balance to the incumbent.
"I believe in what Romney stands for," he said. "There's a lot of people complaining about Obama."
If one thing is certain, Tuesday's results aren't likely to change the nation's bitterly divided political landscape any time soon.