When you talk to Madeline Fakharzadeh, a high school senior in Kent, you wouldn’t necessarily think American politics are all that divisive right now. At Tuesday's Republican election night party in Bellevue, she held a campaign sign for her local congressman, Republican Dave Reichert. But she has also volunteered for Democrats and for Washington United for Marriage, the group behind Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage. And she didn’t think she was out of the ordinary in a Republican crowd on election night. “With times changing the way they are, it’s not a matter of, ‘I’m a conservative, I don’t believe in same-sex marriage.’ It’s changing,” she said.
Republicans say Rob McKenna’s campaign for Washington governor inspired many young people to get involved in GOP politics. They say more high school and college students volunteered for his campaign than for previous GOP candidates. At Tuesday's party, some young volunteers said their politics do not always fit the Republican mold.
The diversity of thought Fakharzadeh represents is prevalent among Young Republicans of King County, whose members are more likely to support Libertarians than Democrats. Many supported Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in Washington. But when Paul failed the get the GOP nomination, some members of the group deserted Mitt Romney to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson instead.
Shannon Ford is the vice president of Young Republicans of King County. She said her pro-Johnson members wanted to "make a statement that the Republican party needed to be brought back to its roots of being more conservative and more libertarian-leaning and curtail the government’s intrusion.” Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, has received more than 20,000 votes in Washington so far.
Older party-goers on Tuesday seemed less likely to split a ticket. Lori Terpening is a longtime Republican precinct committee officer in Bellevue. She said she was sad about Republican candidates’ poor showings, and she was most devastated by the passage of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. “I’m crying about gay marriage and the marijuana," she said. "It’s very scary, the effect that that is going to have on the rising generation."
As news of Romney’s defeat spread throughout the ballroom in Bellevue, some people cried. Others said they were skeptical of the returns. They said they hoped the national news of a Republican loss wouldn't trickle down to statewide races. And people of all ages cheered loudly for gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna when he told them to stay optimistic, because later vote totals would be “worth the wait.”