At precisely 10:37 p.m., up on the big-screen TV, the magical number popped up that everyone had waited to see.
One hundred percent. As in, all the votes were counted in the local Republican primary.
Just like that, Mark Waller knew (or thought he knew) he had won his first political race, which so many had insisted he could never win. And just like that, from inside the Fox and Hound Pub & Grille came the last and loudest roar on a Tuesday night filled with them.
Not because Waller won the Republican nomination in state House District 15, but because he dethroned the irascible, immature, not-so-invincible Douglas Bruce, whose history of self-serving antics finally came back to bite him in the backside.
"Ding dong, the witch is dead!" crowed City Councilwoman Margaret Radford, herself a former victim of Bruce's crude behavior and misguided motivations.
Radford was speaking for people throughout the city, if not the state. Perhaps local Republicans had mixed opinions and emotions about other outcomes, especially Dan May's lopsided defeat of District Attorney John Newsome. But everyone was united in the fervent hope that Waller would somehow humble Bruce.
"Seeing that number," Waller said hoarsely, "made it all real."
As it turned out, that "100%" graphic on Channel 13 was incorrect, because the last votes weren't tabulated until much later. Waller's margin wound up at 52-48 percent, or 320 votes. But the errant report still sent many people home happy.
- And now Rep. Doug Lamborn says he wants to debate.
"This proves that if you do it the right way, good things can happen to you," Waller said to the crowd, which responded with chants of "Mark, Mark, Mark." The group included campaign workers as well as political figures who were beside themselves with glee, including state Reps. Bob Gardner and Larry Liston, County Commissioner Amy Lathen, former state Sen. Ron May and Radford.
They weren't alone. Hours before, as initial returns came in, seeing Bruce behind brought smiles even inside Cowboys downtown, where Jeff Crank dealt with the disappointment of losing again to Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District race. Some of the same elected officials who wound up cheering Bruce's defeat started the night by commiserating with Crank.
"There will be a day for you, and I'll be happy to help you again," Liston said to Crank, adding, "and perhaps there is a God, because Doug Bruce is losing."
Meanwhile, amid May's celebration at Dale Street Caf, Mayor Lionel Rivera led many others by pumping his fists in jubilation as more Waller-Bruce results trickled in.
"I guess this means Doug won't have anything else to do now except try to make us miserable," Rivera joked, referring to Bruce's ominous November ballot issues trying to undermine the Stormwater Enterprise and force radical cuts in city services. But Rivera freely admitted he and City Council would rather deal with an emasculated, rather than an empowered, Douglas Bruce.
There was one common thread among the outcomes. Bruce and Newsome made serious, embarrassing mistakes and then handled them poorly, putting both in the headlines repeatedly as Waller and May worked to build grassroots support. But despite widespread dissatisfaction with Lamborn's performance, that frustration never turned into scandal or huge headlines. And with Bentley Rayburn muddying the water, Crank never could get the traction he needed. Perhaps he should have made a bigger deal about Lamborn having openly supported Bruce.
Republicans have to cringe at being so divided over their most influential office-holder. When an incumbent congressman fails to get a majority in a primary, that's not a mandate. In fact, this race provided a strong argument, as in 2006, for Colorado returning to primary runoffs, as was the case until 2003.
We'll see where this all leads in November, as local Democrats try to pull a few surprises and perhaps ride some bigger coat-tails.
But today, after sweeping away a misbehaving DA and our most famous anti-government monster, Colorado Springs must look better to the rest of Colorado.