In what's becoming a familiar biannual ritual, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-District 6) again narrowly squeaked out a win, to hold on to his House seat representing Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district.
Unofficial results from the Pennsylvania Department of State gave the congressman a 4 percent advantage (52 percent to 48 percent) over his Democratic opponent, businessman and first-time political candidate Bob Roggio. However, those results did not become obvious until nearly midnight, several hours after the polls had closed.
Gerlach and his supporters spent election eve at the Brickside Grille in Exton, where the candidate briefly addressed his supporters as they waited for the results.
"We anticipate getting results for Montgomery and Berks counties first -- and, sometime by next Thursday or Friday, we should have Chester and Lehigh counties," he joked, making reference to the protracted nature of his previous campaigns, in which the final tally wasn't known until well after Election Day.
The congressman and most of his supporters had called it a night before even half of the results had been counted, but Gerlach remained confident; and, in the end, he carried three of the four counties in the district, with only Montgomery County leaning toward Roggio.
As the lone red spot in a sea of blue representing greater Philadelphia, Gerlach said he planned to continue to "look for opportunities to pass good legislation, and continue to look for opportunities to reach across the aisle to work with our brethren and sisters in the Congress."
While the Republicans had to withstand a difficult night, Gerlach supporter Dave Hammer addressed the importance of a voice like Gerlach's in an increasingly Democratic Congress.
"I see Jim as being more conservative than the national gains," he said. "This country's in a whole heap of trouble, and the pendulum has swung to the left. Hopefully, there's not a massive, knee-jerk reaction to the other side."
Now that he's won his fourth term in the House, Gerlach appeared to have a solid understanding of how to prevail in a tight race: repeat the previous formula.
"All campaigns are unique, and it takes on a new personality" each time, said Gerlach. "Each time, you learn new things, and we've applied the lessons of past years."
Those lessons seem to have paid off. Around midnight, after President-elect Barack Obama made his acceptance speech, Roggio attempted to make a concession call to Gerlach from his party at the Inn at Chester Springs, but he was unable to reach him. He spoke briefly to reporters, indicating that his unfamiliarity to many voters may have played a part in his narrow defeat.
"Part of it's name recognition -- he's been there before," he said of Gerlach.
Roggio noted the number of conservative and moderate voters in the district as having played a role in tilting the vote to Gerlach, but, despite not pulling off a win, he appeared in good spirits.
"We did better than most people thought we would."
It Was Obama's Night
Though the Democratic event in Exton was a Roggio event in name, there was no mistaking that it was Barack Obama's party, and any disappointment at Roggio's defeat was tempered by exuberant spirits towards the newly-elected president. Throughout the evening, cheers erupted each time CNN called a state for the Democrats, and, when Obama was projected the winner, the crowd erupted with a steady stream of hugs, cheers and tears of joy.
"I'm thrilled," said artist Carol Reed. "I just don't want to wake up tomorrow morning and find out they found a way to steal it from us!" Reed volunteered with the Obama campaign, making phone calls and assisting with canvassing, and she had high praise for her fellow volunteers.
"I loved seeing the youth involved with this campaign," she said. "It gives me hope -- and that's what this whole campaign is about."
Attorney Barry Rabin said he hadn't followed the Roggio-Gerlach race closely, but had been very interested in the presidential contest. He called the evening "history in the making," and had high hopes for the new president.
"He's a real mensch."