Eugene Gasiorkiewicz at the Ivanhoe Pub, awaiting election results Tuesday night
The rain and fog did little to mask the hope and optimism emanating from one end of Main Street Tuesday night, as Georgia Herrera and Gene Gasiorkiewicz held their election-night vigils across the street from each other.
Gasiorkiewicz with his parents,
Loretta and Eugene
Herrera held court at Casablanca and Gasiorkiewicz at the Ivanhoe Pub; both spent about three hours greeting friends and supporters in their battle for the Racine County Circuit Court seat to be vacated by the retiring Stephen Simanek. They hugged and shook the hands of friends, while nervously checking text messages and calls from observers at City Hall and the County Clerk's office where votes were tabulated. For three hours it was back and forth, the two were separated by 15 votes at one point. Gene took Burlington by 33; Georgia took Waterford by 58.
It wasn't until almost 11 p.m. that someone held a cellphone to one ear with one hand and motioned for silence with his other. The final votes were in: Gasiorkiewicz defeated Herrera 10,549 to 8,939. The crowd at Ivanhoe's erupted into applause. Gasiorkiewicz took more hugs and handed out glasses of champagne. In a short statement he thanked his campaigners for their "enormous" effort. His election, he said, was a victory of "the values that are important to all of us: integrity, honesty and dignity."
Herrera and her mother, Anita
Later, he said the night was "bittersweet," because while elections produce winners, someone also loses.
As if to illustrate his point, across the street at Casablanca, the party ended quickly. At the end, Georgia Herrera and her husband, Jeffrey Leavell, were alone in the empty back dining room, where election night guests had enjoyed a buffet all evening, attempting to place a congratulatory call to Gasiorkiewicz.
Gasiorkiewicz, 60, has won a six-year term on the Circuit Court bench that begins in August; the salary is $128,500 per year. It was a hard-fought, expensive race. (By March 31, the two had already spent $87,665.) In the end it boiled down to endorsements -- Herrera had support from police chiefs and law enforcement officers, and Gasiorkiewicz was endorsed by lawyers and the Racine County Bar Assn. poll -- and a notable misstep when Herrera challenged a small point on Gasiorkiewicz's resume, only to learn that UW-Parkside had given her wrong information . But in the end, as always, it was the votes that counted.
Election-night vigil broke into applause at the news that Gasiorkiewicz had won