Election Day Rituals: Movies, Meals and Mass
At party headquarters on Ivy Street in March, a few Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffers gathered for a good-luck ritual: They posted signs from past special-election victors on windows — and destroyed the losers’ election mailers.
The occasion? The high-stakes special election to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young — though Lady Luck would quickly turn on these staffers. Republicans came from behind to win the appropriately numbered 13th District in Florida.
It’s just one of many superstitious habits saved for an Election Day — and on Tuesday, politicians, operatives and consultants conduct rituals to calm their nerves until polls close and results are released.
“I think, for anyone in our profession, it’s the worst day of the year,” said former National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Guy Harrison. “There’s nothing else you can do.”
To take their minds off the day, some pols head to the movies. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel of New York usually goes to a theater or outlet mall shopping, staying out of his staff’s way.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., is known to watch comically bad movies before results roll in.
“That is how I came to see ‘Escape from L.A,'” said Ali Lapp, the executive director of House Majority PAC and Smith’s former top aide.
Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., makes his own luck on Election Day by driving voters to the polls. The tradition started in his first race when, at age 19, he waged a write-in campaign for school board. He spent the day driving voters to and from the polls, and he won.
Schock’s fellow Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis, can usually be spotted at the same pizza place each cycle, while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California joins his family at In-N-Out Burger.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told CQ Roll Call, “Each Election Day I always stop at Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour in Dania Beach for a quick bite to eat around lunchtime, something I’ve done every election since I first ran for Congress.”
Some pols dare to put their money where their mouth is. Around lunchtime, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., gathers with his brother and some campaign advisers to create a pool, with each person placing a bet on what percentage of the vote Richmond will garner.
The winner gets a free dinner.
“Somebody’s usually very, very close,” said Richmond. “Even in elections that I have lost, we have been right within usually a percentage point.”
Richmond may like to add some excitement with a tasty meal on the line, but other candidates prefer to vote early and then relax after a hard-fought campaign.
Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell, a first-time candidate who weathered many Election Days with her husband, retiring Rep. John D. Dingell, likes to go to the polls when they open at 7 a.m. Then she usually heads to coffee at Panera Cares Community Cafe with a group of friends.
And if all else fails, there’s always church.
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, attends evening Mass each Election Day, a tradition that began when he first won a seat in the state House in 1990. Gallego also keeps a toy from his son, Nicolás, in his pocket for good measure.
Others put down the rabbit’s foot and just take the day as it comes.
“Elections are quirky enough,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “Don’t have to add OCD behaviors to them!”
It’s worth noting Ros-Lehtinen is running unopposed this cycle.