Election night in Rockwall County — from Republican incumbent Congressman Ralph Hall’s office on the downtown Rockwall square to Weekends across the lake where Democrats gathered — candidates and party supporters waited on local election results, while the television stations and computer screens kept them apprised of national results.

More than 1,200 mail-in ballots delayed election results coming from the Rockwall County Elections Administrator’s office until nearly 2 a.m.

Waiting to the wee hours were Justice David Bridges, opposed for the in the race for the 5th Court of Appeals, pacing between Hall’s office and the elections office; and Kenda Culpepper, the sole candidate, a Republican, for the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney, unexpired term, also traversing downtown between the offices on the square.

Culpepper said she is excited and ready to take leadership in the office, whose former district attorney, first sentenced in March on felony charges, has basically not served as DA for over a year.

Though a formality in her race, Culpepper wanted the numbers: 24,731 was the count as of 8:38 a.m. Wednesday. That is 77 percent of the number who cast ballots in the election in Rockwall County, 32,186.

Bridges, on the other hand, had a close race. Dallas County voted Democrat, and kept the races for the 5th Court of Appeals close; though he was ahead, he wanted that security of the Rockwall County vote.

He got it, winning his district with 52 percent of the vote over Democrat David Hanschen, who got 48 percent. He got 75 percent of the Rockwall County vote.

Hall discussed the election from his office Tuesday night.

“Maybe I’m not as out of touch as the newspaper editor wrote about,” he said smiling. He was referring to an area daily newspaper which did not endorse him.

“The last bill that was written I wrote to drill in Anwar,” he said. He wrote the most recent energy legislation he said — the only legislation which produced a barrel of oil.

“I can work with the Democrats; there’s enough good conservative Democrats that I can work with,” he said.

Hall used to be a Democrat, but switched, he said, when it was made clear his region would receive no money for roads. “I switched over transportation issues,” he said.

“But I am more of a conservative than I was a Republican or Democrat. I vote the same way I always voted,” he said, noting he had voted against leadership in both parties.

Hall is normally the first one up and the last one to leave the office, his aides say.

Meanwhile, across the lake at Weekends nightclub, member’s of Hall’s former party had gathered to watch the returns coming in on television screens as occasional karaoke singers entertained the crowds.

With no democratic candidates running for local races, the gathered crowds kept their hopes up for Rick Noriega, who was challenging John Cornyn for the seat in the U.S. Senate.

It was a long shot, they conceded, but they waited amidst rows of Noriega signs.

Their other hope, of course, was a win for Obama in the presidential race.

For this one, there was reason to celebrate.

A somewhat reserved and quiet crowd erupted in cheers when it was announced that Virginia had gone to Obama.

Then when CNN was satisfied enough with the results to call Obama the projected winner there were cheers, tears and ballons dropping (with a bit of extra coaxing) from the ceiling.

In Rockwall County election day the elections administrator was one of those early to rise, late to leave folks as well.

With a record number of more than 1,200 mail-in ballots, which had been folded multiple times, it was hard for the optical scanners to read them. The Ballot Board began work at 10 a.m. Tuesday and did not finish until after 8 p.m. Any ballot not going through the scanner had to be replicated, Glenda Denton, elections administrator, said.

Also, all ballots by mail must have their signatures verified.

Polling place machines were not a problem nor cause in the late returns.

At Chisholm Baptist Church, one of the polling places, Democrat election judge Bick Asbery said, “It was amazing the number of young people who came through and were truly excited about voting for the first time. Mothers were bringing their kids in, fathers bringing in their kids ... it was a lot of fun.”

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