I was selected to cover the Florida Governor’s race this election year. My photographer Cory and I headed to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday after a morning meeting devising our election plan. During the three-hour drive we discussed our plan of action over Pizza Combos and 80s music.
We got to Fort Lauderdale and checked into our hotel room. We caught up with Bob (our sat truck operator) and went right to work. Right off the bat, we knew this race would be close, so we expected a late night.
We went live at 5:00pm, then again at 6:00 – laying out what our candidate was doing (sitting in his hotel room preparing to watch the returns). Rick Scott spent $73 million on his campaign – it was the most expensive Governor’s race in U.S. history. We arrived to the hotel, which was built up against an inlet and marina. Multi-million dollar yachts surrounded the election party. We learned the boat show was in town the weekend before. These yachts were unreal – especially “Carefree” which sailed a Caymanian flag.
The night chugged along and supporters started showing up. Booze was flowing. The Scott campaign had two, nice media rooms set up with a huge food spread for the dozens of reporters from TV, radio, newspaper and web. That was a very welcomed sight and much appreciated.
At 7:30 I did a live report on the phone for sister radio station WDBO. 8:00pm our Election Special began on our sister TV station WRDQ. We were supposed to do a live report at 8:05. We did not realize so many races would end so quickly, for example, the Senate race that Marco Rubio won handily. We stood and waited….waited…and waited. Finally about 9:20 we did our report. We needed to have some new material for 10:00pm so we talked with supporters and got some soundbites. We ran to the satellite truck to feed the new material back. It was 9:55 and we were to go live in 3 minutes. 2 minutes. 1 minute…we made it. Barely.
At this point, we saw most of the races have been called. But not ours. And it didn’t look like it was going to end – tonight anyway. But we were there, ready to go live with any new developments. We did our live report at 10:00, then again at 11:00. Then campaign staffers told us they were going to start their “presentation” in 10 minutes. Liars.
They’d go on with the 10-minute shenanigans about 5 more times that night. Just after midnight, Alex Sink (Rick Scott’s opponent) came out and spoke to her party in Tampa. She shut her party down, but insisted the fight was still on. The Scott campaign kept their party going, although supporters and members of the media were getting tired – and it showed. 1:00am. 2:00am.
I lost track of time at that point. Finally the presentation began and we took it live on WFTV. Rick Scott came out and addressed everyone and promised to continue the fight and that all votes would be counted. But this party was over, and everyone was relieved. Cory and I were starving. We tracked down a Denny’s.
The server dropped off our drinks and forgot to come back for the order. 3:30….3:40…3:45. We finally ate then raced back to the hotel. I dove into bed and passed out at 4:30am. I remember waking up in the same position I fell asleep in. I remember waking up feeling like I was hungover. But I didn’t drink anything. It’s a weird feeling.
Were up and at em’ at 8:00am because Rick Scott was going to speak in the ballroom at 10:00am. So we got everything together, cables were run from the sat truck into the ballroom and Bob had us all taken care of. Cory set up his camera on the scaffolding and we were told we needed to get back to Orlando so I could anchor the 6:30 and 10:00pm shows. So my co-worker Eric, who was covering the Marco Rubio party came up from Miami. By the time he arrived, we were already there to shoot. So he took over and did a live shot for the noon show. Oh yeah, Rick Scott didn’t talk until 12:05. Sigh.
At 12:30, Cory and I made our journey back to Orlando. I changed suits in the restroom of the station and started a new day. A day full of election results, highlights, low lights, sagging eyes, yawns and dreams of my own bed and no wake up calls. Not until 10:45 did my dreams came true.
All in all, WFTV/WRDQ’s coverage was again, top notch. The best in town. Covering an election is wild, exhausting, nerve-racking, stressful, and for the most part: fun. But the thing that I like the most about covering elections….?
Well, I’ll tell you in 10 minutes.