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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

Bush Supporters' Cravings Satisfied

Certification: On Nov. 7, it was 'disappointment after disappointment,' says one man who was in Austin to celebrate a belated result.

November 27, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AUSTIN, Texas — When the moment came, it could not be contained to the narrow sidewalk they had paraded on all day. So the hundreds of George W. Bush supporters gathered outside the Governor's Mansion here took to the street.

The man inside, their man, was the winner in Florida.

Horns honked. People whooped. The chant of the last days, "President Bush," grew more insistent.

This was the moment they had come to share.

Some walked with their dogs on leashes, Bush-Cheney stickers stuck to the animals' fur. Some pushed snacking toddlers in strollers as the parents hollered for Bush.

"I think we've all been craving the certification [of Florida's vote]; craving an end to it," said Bush backer Gary Jones, who came to party with his wife and two young daughters.

For Jones and the hundreds of others who gathered outside while Bush was inside monitoring Sunday night's events, the search was for finality.

Something no one got 20 nights ago on election day.

"It was disappointment after disappointment after disappointment," said Jones, an Austin-based cargo pilot who said he watched the returns election night on television until 3 a.m., when he finally went to bed in disgust.

"Election night was an earthquake," said 11-year-old Warren Tichenor, a precocious pundit in these heady days of electoral turmoil. "These are the aftershocks."

And the crowds weren't limited to the doorstep of the Republican presidential candidate. Even at the vice president's home in Washington, D.C., well-organized Bush supporters outnumbered Al Gore boosters 4 to 1. And at all the election hot spots from Florida to the homes of the candidates, the same sentiments--and even the same signs--were seen time and again.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., several hundred demonstrators for Bush and Gore shouted at each other outside the disaster operations center where the Palm Beach County canvassing board was finishing its hand recount.

Earlier in the day in Tallahassee, the Florida capital, about 300 protesters crowded into the Capitol complex, both sides hoarse from their respective shows of outrage. Cries of joy and equal exclamations of anguish went up at the news that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris had certified the vote in Bush's favor.

"This is probably the most historic thing that's ever, ever going to happen in Florida," said Rev. Darrin Box of Tallahassee. "I just wanted to watch democracy work itself out."

Ship inspector Andy Piccolo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., bought 200 hot dogs and hamburger patties and grilled them for the Bush demonstrators in West Palm Beach. He came out because he was outraged by the unsubstantiated reports that people were "eating the chads."

Stella Bartome of New Mexico made the trip to Austin to show her staunch support for the vice president. A lonely pro-Gore force in the long line of marchers making the loop in front of the mansion, Bartome said she came because her parents raised her as a Democrat.

Clutching her Gore-Lieberman sign in her long manicured fingers, Bartome shrugged off the insults.

"I know, honey, you don't have a party to go to," said one pro-Bush woman who was toting her own sign: "Bush country!!! Let the civil war begin."

"You're the only one who is hateful," Bartome responded. "Everyone else is being nice."

Said another Bush backer of Bartome's taunter: "Don't pay her any attention; she probably isn't from Texas."

Ed Johnson was there Sunday night in Austin with his 12-year-old daughter, Aileen--just as he was the rainy election night that left the nation without a president-elect.

"We're here so she can see history," Johnson said.

While the crowd partied in Texas, an angry scene played out at the Naval Observatory in Washington, where the vice president lives.

Police intervened just after 7 p.m., when two sign-carrying Gore supporters crossed the street and began shouting face-to-face with Bush backers.

It had been a long evening of heated rhetoric.

"I just think it's time for this to end," said Chris Wallisch, who stood and chanted for Bush with his 5-year-old daughter, Abby, asleep on his shoulder. On the other side of the street, Denise Ryan stood holding a sign reading: "You can't steal what you already own. Gore won." Ryan, who holds an appointed position at the Interior Department, appeared beleaguered but unwilling to concede defeat.

"Al Gore won this election, and we are being unfairly tormented by going through this lack of a recount in Florida," Ryan said.

*

Times staff writers David Willman in Washington and Michael Finnegan and Richard A. Serrano in Florida contributed to this story.

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