Union workers celebrate at Dodger Stadium


LAX workers were the first to begin the cheers.

“Obama! Obama! Obama!”

It didn’t take long for others to follow when the news broke out at Dodger Stadium on election night that Barack Obama had been re-elected president. That’s where hundreds of supporters gathered as part of a party organized by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

“Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!”

The crowd at the Stadium Club, a bar and dining area that overlooked the lit-up stadium, looked up eagerly at flat-screen TVs to take in the news. Union workers, community leaders and Obama supporters didn’t have to wait long to get worked into a frenzy. News outlets called the election for the incumbent just 15 minutes after the party started at 8 p.m.

Then Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, addressed the group, speaking from a podium and denouncing “the super rich and powerful.”

“Their money is nothing compared to the power of firefighters, teachers … and truck drivers, and nurses,” she said.

What Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, expected to be a long night ended rather quickly. He tipped his hat to Florida Jews, saying that Obama carried Jewish counties in Florida by huge margins.

“Jewish voters by-and-large stood with the president,” he said. “This is a great victory for us today.”

Still, when Bauman took the stage later he reminded the crowd that the presidency wasn’t the only important contest up for grabs.

He didn’t have to tell Lowell Goodman, director of communications for Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents 80,000 public employees in Southern California, including librarians, nurses, social workers and trash collectors.

Goodman said he had been out since 1 p.m. knocking on doors to mobilize people to vote against Proposition 32, which proposed reforming California’s campaign finance rules and banning the use of employee payroll deductions for political purposes. Union leaders opposed it, arguing it would limit their ability to participate effectively in the political process.

“Yes on 32 silences the voices of our 80,000 members, and what it says is the only ones who should have a voice in politics in California are the 1 percent,” he said.

Goodman, whose children attend preschool at Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, lives near the stadium in Angelino Heights in Echo Park. Asked if he was going to walk home, he answered:

“If it’s a good night, I’ll stumble home.”

Young Persian Jews cool, not cold, on Obama


When the networks projected President Barack Obama’s re-election victory Tuesday night, most of the young, partying crowd at The Parlor bar in West Hollywood erupted in raucous cheers.  Except for one section.

There, a crowd of more than 100 young Persian American Jews remained mostly quiet—at least three-quarters of them had clearly been hoping for victory for Gov. Mitt Romney.

“I think Obama will be spineless when it gets to dealing with Ahmadinejad,” said Michael Hiller, a thirty-something Persian American Jew, echoing a primary reason so many of his friends and family had voted for the Republican. “Romney’s better for Israel.”

Just a few cheers punctuated the silence.

“Maybe there’s 10 of us,” Sam Yebri, founder of 30 Years After, shouted over the din.  He meant Obama backers.

But the quiet that overtook the lively crowd as a bank of giant TV screens announced state after state for Obama didn’t tell the whole story.

When CNN reported victories for a Colorado initiative legalizing marijuana use, the group erupted in applause.  They did so again when Maryland’s initiative for gay marriage passed.

Young Persian Jews, said 30 Years After executive director Tabby Davoodi, lean conservative on economics and foreign policy, but are socially liberal.

But their alliances are more fluid than they seem, or sound.

“I voted for McCain in 2008 and Obama today,” said Michael Yadegaran, a vice president of the group. “I realized Republicans were using Israel as a partisan issue.

Navid Soleymani also switched to Obama.

The 38-year-old lawyer said Sen. Mitch McConnell’s declaration that his job was to unseat the President “put politics above country.”

“To me it’s not about Romney,” Soleymani said. “It’s about the Republican brand that’s been damaged.

“The most important thing,” said Sanaz Meshkinfan, 29, “is 30 years after their parents came from Iran, this generation of Iranian Americans is engaged in civic duty.”

Election day snapshots


Beverlywood

Nettie Price voted for Obama in 2008, and in the past the registered independent has voted mostly a straight Democratic ticket. But not this year.

Standing outside her polling place at Castle Heights Elementary School in Beverlywood, Price said this time she voted a straight Republican ticket, based on one issue: economics.

“Obama had four years to fix things. I voted for him four years ago, but no way in hell would I vote for him again,” said Price, who runs an adult basketball league.

She voted no on Proposition 30 and on most propositions that would raise taxes, but voted to change the “three-strikes” law.

Her husband, a retired high school football coach, is a longtime Republican, and he voted that way this election. “I’m sick of big government — it doesn’t work,” he said.

Price said all her friends and neighbors are Democrats, so she doesn’t usually talk politics.

But with her vote cast and the late-morning crowd light outside the school auditorium, Price wasn’t shy about her views.

“I think Obama did a horrible job — just horrible,” she said.


Pico Boulevard

To Sol Berger, which candidate or measure he voted for isn’t as important as the fact that he gets to vote.

The 93-year-old Holocaust survivor grew up in Poland, and he has seen what nondemocratic regimes can do.

“I know the difference,” Berger said, as he waited for his ride outside of Congregation Mogen David on Pico Boulevard near Roxbury Drive, where he had just cast his ballot.

Berger said he’s voted in every election since he and his wife, Gertrude, moved to the United States in 1950. Sol survived the war by disguising himself as a Polish laborer and escaping with a partisan unit to the forest. Most of his family did not survive.

He was a Zionist from the age of 15, he said, and tried to get to Palestine before the war but wasn’t able to get out.

“I vote for anybody who wants to defend Israel,” Berger said. “And I always like to vote for Jewish representatives.”

Berger is a speaker at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and at the Museum of Tolerance, and he lectures at colleges and high schools as well as at churches and synagogues. A few years ago, he was invited to speak at the University of Krakow, and the day after the election, he was scheduled to speak to the Los Angeles Police Department.

But today, he’s voting.

“I love this country. This country gave me opportunities I could never have anyplace else in the whole world,” Berger said.


Beverly-Fairfax

Smack in the middle Beverly-Fairfax area, with its mix of Orthodox Jews and young hipsters, the Pan Pacific Park Senior Center was buzzing even in the late-afternoon lull of  Election Day. While early-morning hours had seen long lines, as the sun blazed down at around 2 p.m., elderly couples shuffled in, and men in black hats and long coats rushed by.

Adam, a 34-year-old development officer on paternity leave, put on his sunglasses and pushed a stroller as he came out of the gym onto the blindingly white concrete. His month-old daughter stayed asleep while he voted.

Adam, who declined to give his last name, is an Obama supporter, but is frustrated, once again, about this election.

“I never feel that the choices in presidential elections are as good as they should be,” he said.

 “I felt Obama was the best candidate for this election. I don’t think Romney represents the people as much as Obama does,” he said.

Carl Miller, a 29-year-old small-business owner, also voted for Obama. He’s relieved the grueling election season is over.

“I’m just glad we were spared some of it since we’re not in the swing-state crossfire,” he said.

He said he could go down a list of why he voted for Obama, but it comes down to direction.

“He is pretty diametrically opposed to Romney, and I’m much more comfortable with the direction Obama is taking this country,” Miller said.

Miller said he had initially been vociferously advocating for Proposition 37, which would require labeling for genetically modified foods. But after he did more research, he wasn’t satisfied with the way the law was written. “So I swung the other way,” he said.

A 63-year-old CPA with a long gray beard and wearing a black hat declined to give his name but said he voted for Romney.

“I believe we’ll be in deep trouble if Obama stays in,” he said. “He’s weak on foreign policy, he is not a supporter of Israel, and he’s a spendthrift who overpays but doesn’t produce results.”

And for Adam, the 34-year-old, the birth of his first child has affected how he thinks about politics.

“I think now more than ever about how important it is to create the world you would like to see your child grow up in,” he said.


San Fernando Valley

What convinces Jewish voters to back a particular candidate? Some brandish endorsements from prominent Jewish leaders, others recruit Jewish surrogates to trot out pro-Israel talking points, still others create specific campaign materials aimed at Jewish voters.

But for many Jews, the deciding factor can often be the advice or urging of someone close to them.

Margie Feld, who cast her ballot late Tuesday afternoon at Shaarey Zedek, an Orthodox synagogue in Valley Village that is her usual polling place, acknowledged that Howard Berman got her vote in large part because she had heard her friends and neighbors talking about him.

“It’s just who we hear about all the time – Berman this, Berman that,” she said.

Those pro-Berman friends didn’t just win over Margie Feld; they also got her husband’s vote. Jeff Feld said he had, until recently, been planning to vote for Berman’s opponent, Brad Sherman, but like many men and women across the country, he eventually voted the same way his wife did – and not just in the that heated Berman-Sherman congressional race.

“When she forces you to match up her ballot with yours, you know it’s gone too far,” Jeff Feld said with a smile.

It was the first time casting a ballot in a presidential election for Ben Bernshtein, and on his way out of Shaarey Zedek in North Hollywood, the 19-year-old college student wouldn’t say whether he voted for Romney or Obama. But he did know where he’d be watching the results come in: the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at California State University, Northridge, where he’s studying film, hoping to become an actor.

“You know the saying, ‘Two Jews, three opinions’? Well,” Bernshtein said, “this is going to be like 20 Jews, 50 opinions.”


Westwood

Polling places often move around from year to year, but normally not on Election Day itself, as happened to the polls at Sinai Temple this year.

On Nov. 6, when the day began, 14 booths were positioned inside the West Coast’s largest and oldest Conservative synagogue. But after two trained volunteers, working with Election Protection, a nonpartisan election-monitoring organization, reported that the synagogue’s security guards were, as they do every day, using metal detector wands to screen each person entering the building, poll workers relocated the booths to a fenced-in courtyard outside the synagogue, just off Wilshire Boulevard.

“It can be intimidating,” said Brian Link, one of the volunteers, explaining why the polling places had to be moved to comply with election law.

Nobody appears to have been turned away from the polls at Sinai Temple while they were indoors, and the polls were even more visible and accessible after being moved.

In the mid-morning, a class of 19 4-year-olds from Sinai Akiba walked in with their three teachers. The kids had conducted a mock election in their classroom earlier in the day, one of the teachers said.

“Oreos or Chips Ahoy,” she said. “I don’t know who won. We haven’t counted the votes yet.”

Cheers turn to jeers at GOP event


Amid life-sized cutouts of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Republicans gathered in a backroom at the Daily Grill in Santa Monica on Tuesday night to watch Fox News election returns on two large screens. 

The mood was festive as the evening kicked off with drinks and appetizers and the waiters set down oversized plates of pasta and chicken on tables decorated with red, white and blue tinsel centerpieces.

Richard and Lauren Gordon sat at a back table, nursing drinks. Richard, a business owner is a Romney supporter; Lauren, director of a child advocacy organization, is a die-hard Democrat. Their three children — the youngest is 17 — are split.

“We try to be open and respectful of each other,” Lauren said, acknowledging that election season gets exciting. “We respect each other’s opinions, and we do a lot of fact checking. It makes for very interesting conversation.”

The couple came to support Robert Kronovet, a Republican who found out after the party that he had lost his bid to be reelected to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board, which he sat on since 2008. Kronovet co-hosted the party with American Freedom Alliance, Santa Monica Republican Headquarters Committee and Westside Republicans.

While the crowd let out whoops and cheers as Fox News projected North Carolina and then Missouri for Romney, the mood quickly sobered as a reporter announced in a dour voice that Ohio was projected to land in Obama’s column. 

Cries of “no” and “boo” arose, and a brief resurgence of energy came with Fox’s announcement that the Republican Party had not yet given up on Ohio.

But as the evening wore on, some people mouthed, “It’s over,” and left the party.

Kronovet — whose vaguely New York accent and cheery irony could make him a character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — wasn’t surprised with how the election turned out. 

“The Republican Party has got to step away from women’s health issues and let the world know it’s not our business. We have enough problems. I know about all the issues, and what the Orthodox say, and I’m a Chabadnik, but losing an election like this is silly — it’s just silly. The party needs to get back to the very basics,” Kronovet said, stopping now and then to shake a hand and offer reassurance to supporters.

The Republican social platform leaves little room for moderates, he said.

“There may be Democrats who like the Republican economic policies, but when they throw something in their face that is so repulsive, they’re going to get the same results every time,” he said.

Kronovet had his share of supporters in the room, both Republicans and Democrats, who agreed with his stance on rent control. 

“I try to represent the housing providers. And I try to be gracious and bring a balance of supply and demand,” he said. 

Kronovet said he is not despondent about Obama’s win. He said that historically, second-term presidencies have been better for the economy.

“I hope Obama does well. I don’t want him to do badly. What kind of schmuck wants the president to do badly?” Kronovet said. “That’s stupid — that’s a horrible thing to say. Ridiculous. But I know people who want that.”