With balloons scattered about the room, Rep. Rosa DeLauro stepped on stage at the Long Wharf Theatre amidst applause from a crowd of about 100 of her supporters. Across town, state Rep. Toni Walker celebrated with her followers at Senor Panchos, as rap music blared from the bar.

Both Democrats celebrated their resounding victories Tuesday night, as DeLauro defeated challenger Richter Elser ’81 and Walker won comfortably against her challenger, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01.

DeLauro, who will be heading into her eighth term, held her victory party at the decked out Long Wharf Theatre, which had been fitted with four televisions airing constant election coverage.

DeLauro said she is excited to serve her constituents for another two years.

“I don’t view this election as a reward for past service, but as a renewal contract,” DeLauro said. “This job is about listening and that no one’s needs be ignored.”

Former Ward 9 Alderman Gerry Garcia said it was a well-deserved victory.

“Rosa’s fantastic, a testament to her commitment to the people of the greater New Haven,” Garcia said. “Not only did she win but she got the kind of voter confidence someone as hard working as her deserves.”

Elser held his election party at the Temple Grill, where the atmosphere was a bit more subdued. Elser, who ran against DeLauro in 2002, said he was still glad he had run against DeLauro.

“I like to hold election officials accountable every two years,” he said.

With red and white balloons lining the ceiling of Senor Panchos, Walker entered the room to give her victory speech.

“This was a wonderful victory for all of us,” Walker said. “This day will go down in history, not because of me, but because we are all making a stand saying that things need to be changed in this country.”

Don Walker, Toni’s husband, said the next step is to unite all parties.

“The people in the district have spoken,” Don Walker said. “But we have a lot of healing to do, to pull the country back together.”

Chen, the Green Party candidate, lost her election for state representative. But some residents said they still appreciated Chen’s effort.

“I voted for a lady named Joyce Chen,” a New Haven resident in Ward 2 said. “She was the only one who reached out to my neighborhood.”

In Ward 2, there were 10 to 15 girls, half in red and white cheerleading outfits, doing cheers for Chen. When asked about the campaign, Chen said it was going “very well.”

At the polls, even the children were getting into the heat of the election. Kevin Walton, an 8-year-old child, stomped on a ball saying “this is Bush” to random passersby.

Despite a diversity of views, many said they were pleased with the large voter turnout. Walker, who was campaigning in front of James Hillhouse High School, said she was impressed with how hard people tried to get to the polls.

“People are coming out in cabs, that’s how committed they are,” Walker said. “I met a young man who went to three different polls before he found the right one.”

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said it was a good sign to see so many voters make it to the polls.

“All over the state, great turnout numbers — everyone’s really energized,” DeStefano said. “Voter turnout doesn’t help sometimes, it always does.”

But some found difficulty in just getting to the polls. Samantha Thomas, a student at Gateway Community College and full-time worker at Holiday Inn, said she did not like how the polling locations were assigned.

“This poll is two blocks away, but I have to go across town. Kind of funny how people who can’t get there won’t vote,” she said. “My neighbor votes here, but I have to go to Woodbridge.”

Voters said they selected their chosen candidates for a variety of reasons. Lauren Rogers ’05 said she voted for Kerry because of her concern for the Supreme Court.

“The current administration is slowly chipping away at a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “The Supreme Court assignments are really important.”

Theodore DeLong DRA ’07 said he voted for Kerry because he’s against the war in Iraq.

“I think Bush has taken us into a reckless war that’s drained this country of blood and treasure that could have been used for so many things,” he said.

A New Haven resident who identified herself as Ms. Pauker said she was not as informed as she wanted to be about the local elections.

“I think Chen did a lot of campaigning, as did Dodd and DeLauro,” Pauker said. “But they were all overshadowed by the presidential campaigns.”

Melissa Esposito, a mother of four, said she was simply glad to get out and vote.

“It was time that I voted — I haven’t voted in the last three years,” Esposito said. “The way things have been going, it was time to change.”

— Staff reporter Dan Adler contributed to this report; additonal reporting by Josh Duboff and Heather Richels.

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