The Rev. Paul Angelicchio of Our Lady of Pompei explained why and how the annual pasta blowout has drawn thousands of people for almost six decades. “There is no such thing as Democrats and Republicans in here,” said Angelicchio. “People seem to just leave that stuff at the door when they come here and just enjoy the event for what it is.”
But by the time people started walking through the doors at the Republicans’ get-together at the Doubletree Hotel on Carrier Circle at 8:30 p.m., it was politics as usual, and it was already looking ominous for the GOP. Republican presidential nominee John McCain was already trailing Barack Obama by 100 Electoral College votes. And the local main event, which pitted Democrat Dan Maffei against Republican Dale Sweetland for the 25th District seat in the House of Representatives, also was coming up peanuts in the early vote count for the elephant bunch.
Victorious state Sen. John DeFrancisco on his party’s election results: “It wasn’t a sweep in Onondaga County like it was in many other counties in the state of New York.” MATT MUMAU PHOTO
Republican Jim Walsh, who earlier this year, announced his retirement from the seat that Sweetland and Maffei were campaigning for, couldn’t resist putting himself into the thick of things on election night even though this is the first year in 20 he’s not in a race. “I wanted to be here to support Dale and the candidates,” he said at the Doubletree, “and to be with my party members because they helped me every time I ran.”
But even with his support, and many more like him countywide who turned out to campaign for fellow Republicans, there was one obstacle this election season that Walsh observed was too much of a challenge to overcome. “I think it’s all about George Bush,” he continued. “I don’t think this is an ideological election and I don’t think this a generational or a transformational election. I just think it’s easier for the Democrats to say ‘I’m not George Bush’ than it is for a Republican to say ‘I’m not George Bush.’ But if you look at the local commercials, you have people like Dale Sweetland who have never met Bush compared to him constantly.”
Sweetland apparently wasn’t in the mood to party, or had to get to bed early to hit the barn Wednesday morning, as his only time spent at the Doubletree was giving his concession speech and chatting with reporters for a few minutes afterward. A college student/reporter won the award for “twit of the night” when she asked Sweetland if “he was upset that he lost.” The question actually made Sweetland elicit a “you’re kidding me, right?” smile for a second before answering, “You don’t run to lose, so yeah, I’m disappointed.”
And as far as President Brush causing his defeat, Sweetland made dollars and sense of the situation. “It comes down to dollars,” he continued. “When the final numbers come in, we’ll probably have been outspent 7-to-1. Onondaga County itself voted for John Kerry, Al Gore, Senators Clinton and Schumer, but Jim Walsh always won, so I don’t know if that’s an overriding factor.” (Maffei raised $2 million, while Sweetland had $400,000 to campaign with.)
But the news wasn’t all glum for the GOP: Republicans actually won nine out of 18 races. The disenchantment might have come from the fact that most of their victories were for local courts and village boards—not Washington—with the obvious exception of one. Incumbent state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) easily defeated Democrat candidate Carol Mulcahy to return to Albany for a ninth term.
DeFrancisco did find some positive to come out of the night. “It wasn’t a sweep in Onondaga County like it was in many other counties in the state of New York,” he said. “So I think we’re still healthy and the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth and I think our party will have a fresh start and come back stronger in the next one.”
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