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College Republicans at Smokey Joe's

Credit: Son Nguyen

After a day of historically high turnout at the polls, Penn students gathered at bars, fraternity houses, and dorm lounges to monitor the results of Tuesday's midterm elections. The atmosphere across campus changed as various races were called throughout the night, but as the early morning approached, it grew clear that the Democrats had taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives while the Republican party had secured a majority in the U.S. Senate. 

At the Sigma Nu fraternity chapter house on 3819 Walnut St., where Penn Democrats held its watch party, students celebrated early wins for the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania. 

Penn Dems Communications Director and College senior Jack Weisman said Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) re-election reflects the changing attitudes of voters in the state. 

“It really shows that voters in Pennsylvania that narrowly went for Trump in 2016 are not happy with what’s been going on in the Trump Administration,” Weisman said. “They don’t like the corruption, they don’t like the attempts to take away their health care, they don’t like the attempts to lower taxes on the rich, and this is a rebuke to Trump from the voters of Pennsylvania.”

The atmosphere at Smokey Joe's bar, the site of the Penn College Republicans' watch party, was tense early in the night, but quickly turned celebratory when students realized that the Republican party had retained control of the Senate. 

College Republicans interim President and College senior Richard Murphy said he was quietly confident throughout the night that the GOP would retain the Senate, but gradually came to terms with a victory for the Democrats in the House.

Credit: Son Nguyen

“Coming from a Penn perspective, seeing what I am seeing, there is a lot of anger from the left and anger does drive votes,” Murphy said. “It looks like the blue wave is real.”

Voting turnout in this year's historic election broke records on campus, and in watch parties on Tuesday night, it was clear that there were several races that struck a nerve with political groups — Republican, Democratic, and non-partisan — across campus.

One of those was the heated race for re-election of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has faced a strong challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke. When the race was called at approximately 10:30 p.m., students at various watch parties responded with a mix of cheers and boos.

Over two dozen student Republicans, donning red sweaters, Reagan-Bush ’84 shirts, and Trump buttons watched FOX News at Smokes' as the results came in.

Donning a denim jacket and a two Trump buttons, College senior Christian Petrillo, joined the room in a raucous cheers as College Republicans burst into loud applause at the prospect of Cruz's re-election.

Credit: Son Nguyen

College Republicans at Smokey Joe's

“Gosh, if we lost Texas that would have been bad for morale,” Petrillo said. “But I have to say that Beto ran a fantastic campaign.”

With about 40 students filling the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity house living room for the Government and Politics Association party, reactions to victories from both parties were generally subtle, but the atmosphere was shattered as Cruz’s victory in the closely contested Senate race prompted a resounding boo from the audience.

“I was pretty hopeful about Beto O’Rourke taking that seat and flipping Texas,” College junior Archana Upadhyay said. “I’m pretty disappointed that Ted Cruz won, but I’m not really surprised.”

Initial results spelled bad news for Republicans in Pennsylvania, with major Democratic wins in the governor's race, Senate race, and Penn's House district.

Credit: Son Nguyen Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), former President Barack Obama, and Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf

Incumbent Democrats Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf were declared winners in two major Pennsylvania races minutes after polls closed at 8 p.m. 

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) was re-elected to the House, serving still as representative for Penn's campus. Previously the representative for the second district, Evans will now represent Penn in the third district, as his constituency switched districts.

Casey won his third term against Republican challenger and Congressman Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania’s current 11th District.

The race has attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who campaigned for Barletta, and of former President Barack Obama, who came to Philadelphia in September to campaign for Casey. 

Barletta has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011 and has been a staunch supporter of Trump's agenda.

At the Penn Dems watch party, cheers were mostly heard from the roughly 40 students intently watching CNN's election coverage, especially as both the races of Casey and Wolf were called.

After CNN declared Penn grads Mary Gay Scanlon and Conor Lamb victorious around 9:45 p.m., the loudest cheer of the night erupted from the Penn Dems watch party.

Rep. Conor Lamb

The International Affairs Association, a non-partisan organization, gathered for a watch party at the Radian. The crowd of around 30 reacted negatively at around 11:00 p.m. when CNN declared Florida’s gubernatorial race in favor of Republican Ron DeSantis, with several attendees groaning at the announcement.

Earlier in the evening, Murphy said he remained “cautiously optimistic” the GOP would be able to retain the Senate. 

“We'll see how it plays out,” he said on which way the House would turn.

However, Murphy was also quick to dismiss the idea that the results would be overwhelmingly blue. For the past couple weeks, he has been canvassing for Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s contentious 1st District, and said he interacted with many Pennsylvanians who were planning on voting Republican.

Projections were fluctuating throughout the evening, but Republicans saw their chance of winning back the House at three-in-seven just before 9 p.m. Before Election Day, FiveThirtyEight reported a one-in-eight chance of Republicans taking the House.

In the final week before the election Penn Dems canvassed in Pennsylvania’s 1st District for Democrat Scott Wallace, as well as motivated student voters throughout campus.

“People just need the extra push to vote, so it’s important to have people on the front lines,” Penn Dems member and College freshman Shaila Lothe said. 

Credit: Tamara Wurman

The Penn Democrats watch party at the Sigma Nu chapter house

Staff reporter Chris Doyle and contributing reporters Grant Bianco, Conor Murray and Jennifer Lee contributed reporting.