When President Barack Obama took office four years ago, downtown St. Petersburg was a very different place. There was no Local 662 for election watch parties, the gates to the Crislip Arcade were chained shut, the 600 block wasn’t really a place you wanted to hang out. For many in attendance at the Local 662’s election watch party Tuesday night, the 2008 election was the first time they had voted.
The Rock to Vote show, co-sponsored by The Local 662 and Creative Loafing, featured live election results and music by Dylan Martin, Sons of Hippies, The Rosewoods and the Stone Eagles. The biggest issues for voters at Tuesday’s party were overwhelmingly marriage equality and women’s rights. Both weighed heavy on the decision of first-time voter Tyler Killette, 23.
“I didn’t just vote for Obama based on policies,” said Killette, “but based on his beliefs in marriage equality and on abortion, the major issues for me.”
She wasn’t looking for an absolute match.
“You’re never going to find the perfect candidate for you,” Killette said. “So you just have to go for the best choice and that’s Obama.”
As tweets flashed on the giant screen near the stage about voter turnout for Roseanne Barr, Killette joked that she had considered voting for her at one point.
“I thought it was really funny when I saw Roseanne Barr’s name on the ballot,” Killette said. “I almost thought about voting for her but then I thought that it’d be disrespectful to the whole, like, voting process.”
Nick Valladarez, 23, voted in his second election, once again choosing Barack Obama.
“I think Obama has done a phenomenal job and that he understands the economy is tough,” Valladarez said. “I have a full-time job that I wouldn’t have without him in office.”
Valladarez lost his job in construction when the recession hit but gained employment recently building home theaters.
“I’m making more now that I was before the economy tanked,” Valladarez said. “I voted for him last time and I’m happy to vote for him a second time.”
Early in the evening, as poll results began to come in, everyone was sipping tallboys of PBR and chain-smoking. In between wailing sets of local music, when it was announced that Romney was leading, the room fell silent save for one lonely male voice crying out, “Boo!” If anyone at the Local Tuesday night voted for Romney, they weren’t saying anything about it.
Fiona Mills, 23, just became a United States citizen but not in time for the election. She moved here nine years ago from England.
“I would have voted for Obama if I could have,” Mills said. “For me, that would be based on his support of gay rights and women’s rights.”
A little after 11 p.m., with several news services reporting that Obama had won, everyone cheered. Except one really drunk guy who raised his hand when asked if anyone had voted for Romney, then later said he hadn’t voted at all.
“Obama has done a good job, added jobs, tackled most things he said he would,” said second-time Obama voter Sean Fine, 23. “Obama came into one of the worst positions and didn’t make anything worse. Romney’s arguments hold no water. Obama really represents the people’s vote.”
Especially if the people are 23 years old.
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