It was a tale of two parties last night in the 14th congressional district race. Top contenders, Congressman Gary Peters and Congressman Hanson Clarke both threw “victory” parties, but there could only be one winner, and it was clearly Gary Peters.
Even before the results came in, it was obvious that Peters was better at one thing, at least: racking up the campaign funds.
While dozens of Clarke’s people were sitting in the basement at the Burton Theatre eating pizza off of paper plates, hundreds of Peters supporters were partying at the Anthenium Hotel with a full cash bar, a variety of warm finger food with event staff bussing tables.
The stark difference between election night parties was a solid demonstration of how deeply Peters had outraised Clarke. While the two democrats are colleagues in congress, they were forced to battle each other after gerrymandering put them in the same congressional district.
The mood at Clarke’s party was not as festive. A number of impatient journalists paced about the place waiting for Clarke’s arrival along with campaign workers tired from a long campaign day and dozens of longtime Clarke supporters.
But one campaign volunteer said he still had hope. “I think it’s going to end well for us,” said John, 26, of Detroit. “There was no presence of Peters people at the precincts I was located at on the West side.”
Others there were longtime supporters of Clarke. “I live in Detroit and I prefer someone who lives in the city,” said Soh Suzuki of Detroit. “I’ve known him since 2004. He is a rare public servant who’s actually grounded in the community.”
One woman said she preferred Clarke because she has been following his career since he ran for mayor years ago. “He’s humble and down to earth. He supports the people. I don’t know much about the Peters guy,” said Betty Hall of Detroit.
There was chatter of Peter’s more upscale party but one voter said he didn’t care for the fancy fare. “I don’t care if we have paper plates and cookies, we’ve got a pool table in the men’s bathroom,” Tomas Foller or Detroit said with a laugh.
Over at the Peter’s camp at the Anthenium Hotel, the atmosphere was upbeat and nearly 300 people packed the 8th floor banquet hall.
Peters’ supporters seemed triumphant before the election was called.
“Gary can close. We need advocates for the urban agenda and people of color, but the ability to close is more important,” said KB Stallworth, managing director of the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan. ”Clarke is an advocate for policy that will never become a reality and it might sound good to people but it’s not gonna help anyone.”
Many people at Peter’s party just came to support their current 9th district congressman and did not live in the new 14th. “I came tonight because Gary gets it. He knows the area and he’s down to earth,” said Sunil Sabharwal of Rochester. “He’s a level-minded politician and he came from a financial background.”
Hana Malaj, of Bloomfield Hills said she supports Peters “all the way” even though he no longer serves her congressional district. “He’s an honest man. He supported the Albanians in Montenegro and he supported the autoworkers with the bailout,” She said. “Without that money we wouldn’t have Detroit right now. What has Clarke done?”
Peters’ support of women is what got Brenda Carter, Board Secretary of the Pontiac School District to vote for him. “I don’t know Hansen’s track record but Peter’s is pro female. Gary will stand up for women. We’re gonna send him back to D.C.”
The Associated Press called the election before midnight at which point Peters had the lead with 47 percent of the vote, Clarke followed in second with 35 percent with 309 of 349 precincts reporting.