November 5, 2004

Losers’ Capitol Hill offices are gloomy day after election

By Ivy Meagan Smith
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire


WASHINGTON – A gloomy mood pervaded Democratic offices on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with some Senate employees sad because of the presidential race and others because they are now out of a job.

“This is not a good time,” a staff member in the office of Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., told a reporter.

A television broadcasting CNN played in the background. A correspondent analyzed Kerry’s just-completed concession speech and spoke about the address from President Bush to follow. Four staff members answered phones and paid no attention to the program.

“People are devastated across the country,” said another staff member into her phone. “If we thought there were still a chance, we would keep fighting.”

Down the hall of the Russell Senate Office Building, pizza boxes were piled outside Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s office. Inside, young men in T-shirts and jeans were answering the same type of calls.

“As far as I know, his concession speech is not legally binding,” one of them said into the phone. “Yes, the votes are still being counted. That’s why, if you pay attention to the television, it says Bush is the projected winner.”

The trash cans next to their desks were filled to the top with plastic cups and empty Coca-Cola bottles. Their phones lighted up with more incoming calls.

“I know he visited Sen. Kerry at 3 a.m. and then again this morning,” said Jim Manley, Kennedy’s press secretary. “He’s been focusing on the election for some time and now it’s time to turn that focus to the lame duck session coming up.”

Manley declined to comment about what the senator thought about the election.

In the nearby Hart Senate Office Building, the office of Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., who lost to Republican John Thune, was silent.

Two staff members sat in side-by-side desks going through paperwork. No televisions were on, no music played. They declined to comment about the election.

Their jobs are likely to disappear in January when Daschle’s term ends. Kerry’s staff has one consolation – his Senate term is not up until 2008.

Downstairs in the Hart building cafeteria, however, four South Dakota residents vacationing in the Nation’s Capital were happy to talk about the race.

“Daschle no longer has South Dakota values,” said Val Anderson, a 41-year-old office manager from Mitchell, S.D.

She said Daschle started his political career as a moderate liberal, but since coming to Washington has taken a wide left swing.

Anderson, her husband, Dan, and their friends, Troy and Shelly Krisle, both from Lemmon, S.D., were eating lunch before touring the Capitol.

“I’m glad to see him gone,” joked Troy Krisle, 43, who owns a roofing and siding company. “We’re getting ready to head up to his office and help him pack.”

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