Election Day is weird.

Election Day is weird.

It’s weird as a voter. It’s weird as a candidate. It’s weird for the winners and it’s weird for the losers. But it’s especially weird as a press photographer.

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We start our day bright and early. (Actually now that Daylight Savings screwed up my sleep, dark and early.) Out to the polls for a basic sunrise shot of lines of eager voters, excited to cast their ballots for candidates they either feel strongly about or strongly against. And in today’s polarized political climate, “strong” is an understatement.

It’s nothing special, but it starts the day.

For the most part after this, polling places are left to the reporters most of the day. Driving around checking the last of the county’s other polling locations takes a couple more hours out of my day.

I check my watch—it’s 10 a.m. What do I do now?

It’s a good thing I brought a pillow with me to work today because photo studios are much more relaxing when you’ve woken up at 5 a.m. A quick nap and a couple hours of boondoggling, and before I know it it’s 6 p.m. Time for election pizza. It’s a classic staple of newsrooms around the country. But for some reason, my day is just beginning.

7 o’clock means early voting numbers are soon to be released. So I mosey on over to a candidate party which, luck would have it, is hosting almost every Republican candidate in the county. Talk about killing eight birds with one stone.

This bar is my headquarters for the night. Grab a table near an outlet. Set up my laptop. Invite other press to share in the space (Gotta make friends with someone who understands). And wait for the results of “the most important election of our lifetime” to unravel. Here’s the thing: every election is always the most important of our lifetime, at least according to that cycle’s candidates.

As the night goes on, cheers and boos ring out as republicans and democrats win and lose throughout the country. But the biggest cheers come when local races get called.

Blending in is hard. I’m one of few people not wearing the color red. I’m carrying around 2 big cameras with big lenses on them. My press passes are jangling by the carabiner on my belt. I’m a walking target. The enemy of the people, as we’ve been called. I can assure you right now, I’m not here to make enemies with anyone. I’m just here to do my job and take some pictures of the party. But some people don’t understand that.

NBC News is on TV. Spectators grumble, asking “Why is NBC on? They hate us!” Someone goes to the manager for a channel change. Fox News is on now. “Much better,” they say.

As I meander through the crowd eyeing candidates, I have to make sure I get the shot I need before they see me and either run or shoot me a dirty look. It’s the strangest game of cat and mouse I’ve ever played. At larger parties for big-time candidates, it’s harder to run from a team of photographers all vying for photos. But in these local races at intimate parties, I’m one of two or three and I stick out like a sore thumb.

I grumble to myself most of the night about how the lighting sucks or I wish the candidate would step into the light just once. Bars are dark. The party goes on like this for some time.

It’s early in the night, maybe 9:30. Texas is a red-voting state. Candidates are ready to make their victory speeches. This is a quick opportunity to get some good photos of each candidate. Except for one thing. They all expected to win. Nobody is really flush with excitement. There are no screams of joy. These victories aren’t an upset, just business as usual. Most are expected victories. So the challenge here is to make the same angle look interesting in 8 different ways. Yikes.

The party is winding down now, so it’s time to race back to the newsroom. Deadline is approaching. Shooting RAW is great and all, but nothing beats the turnaround time for deadline than a JPEG with some noise reduction. Quick edits. Quick cutlines. And I’m done. Cold pizza is waiting for me, my favorite. No, really.

The rest of the newsroom is scrambling to make some calls and pump out their stories, edit copy and design the pages. But I’ve been around all day. I was first to get in this morning—by a large margin I’d like to remind you—and I’ll be first to leave at night.

I told you, Election Day is weird.

Beto calls for voter turnout, urges unity

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

DENTON — Democrat Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke held a town hall rally Saturday at Backyard on Bell, fresh off the heels of a wave of favorable polls in the contentious Senate race.

O’Rourke is campaigning to unseat incumbent and former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz who has held the seat since assuming office in 2013.

Traditionally a deeply republican state, Democrats are hoping to gain political ground in a fight for a “blue wave,” and thus far are beginning to see potential results. Recent polls show Cruz ahead by as much as nine points and as little as one point.

Democrats credit this polling surge to a grassroots campaign which has seen O’Rourke making campaign stops in all 254 of Texas’s counties. During his fifth Denton appearance since announcing his candidacy, the El Paso congressman urged Denton residents not only to get out and vote, but not to take the back seat on issues important to them.

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Amber Briggle is a long-time Denton resident who vocalized her support for Beto’s positions on equality.

“He spoke about immigrants,” she said. “He talked about the LGBTQ community. He talked about equity and education. It’s equal rights for all. I’m kind of a fan of that.”

 Erica Ortega, on the other hand, is less familiar with O’Rourke’s platform.

“I want to know more about his [stance on] immigration reform, the children in cages,” she said. “And also, what he plans to do with education. I work with children who have special needs, and I really want to know what he plans to help reform not only the United States but especially Texas.”

O’Rourke’s campaign stop drew an estimated 2500 people to the outdoor music venue, according to bar staff. After the venue and indoor bar reached capacity, locals surrounded the area, hurled themselves on top of fences and sat on the curb across the street at the Denton Civic Center.

But despite large turnout for the town hall, some admit there is more work to be done to ensure a “blue wave.”

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” Briggle said. “I think the challenge for every candidate of any political background is just to make sure that your supporters get to the polls. We can talk about a blue wave. We can talk about keeping Texas red. But what it really, ultimately comes down on who can get people out to vote.”

Despite democratic push for a “blue wave,” O’Rourke sends a different message when it comes to the political demographics of Texas.

“This is not going to be a blue wave,” he said. “This is not about changing the partisan color of the state. This is about making sure that every single one of us—republican, independent and democrat—is represented in the United States Senate.”

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a press conference before going on stage for a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a press conference before going on stage for a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC