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Election Night Notes

12:45 - Some Only in San Francisco results: city voters here are showing uncharacteristic common sense by defeating a measure to legalize prostitution, and another one to rename the city's sewage treatment plant for George Bush.

12:19 a.m. Secretary of State Debra Bowen's election results web site has been a nightmare all night: often impossible to access, when you finally get on it you find results that frequently are an hour or more behind the numbers being shown by county registrars. A total disgrace for someone who's main job is making sure elections run smoothly and results get out effectively.

In a race like the 19th state senate district contest between Hannah-Beth Jackson and Tony Strickland, Bowen's folly has required visits to three different county registrar sites to try to piece together what is happening. At this hour, it appears that the 11,000 vote margin that Jackson piled up in Santa Barbara County may be enough to hold off Strickland's edge in Ventura County and in the sliver of Los Angeles County that represents the southern edge of the district. Still, it's impossible to know at this point whether or not any of the counties might have significant numbers of uncounted provisional ballots that could effect the outcome, but Jackson looks strong at this hour.

The leaders of the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign just declared victory in Sacramento, which put a considerable damper on the wild celebration of Obama's victory that had been going on for hours in San Francisco's Castro District. The measure, which would establish a constitutional amendment overturning the state Supreme Court's ruling to allow gay marriage, has led from the moment the polls closed and, at this point, appears to have built a big enough lead to withstand late vote totals coming in from urban districts. This has to rank as something of a surprise, as all the pre-election polling showed this much closer. The key factor here was probably the many millions of dollars poured into the anti-gay marriage cause by members of the Mormon Church. The anti-marriage forces also struck a chord when they reframed the issue, saying Prop. 8 was not about civil rights, but rather about children being taught about homosexuality in school.

Gay rights advocates also lost on a gay marriage measure in Florida and in Arkansas, they were defeated in a battle over an initiative outlawing adoptions by gay couples. Coupled with Obama's big win, the defeat of these measures inevitably will raise questions about whether the big national turnout of African-Americans represented a crucial bloc of anti-gay votes. Obama himself didn't help matters, as he sent a mixed message by stating his own opposition to gay marriage - at the same time he said he was against Prop. 8.

Prop. 4, which would have established a requirement that doctors notify the parent or guardian of teenage girls under 18 before performing an abortion on them is going down to defeat - for the third time in four years. As happened in previous campaigns on this issue, the pro-choice forces who opposed it closed the campaign very strongly, overcoming an early lead by the pro-life advocates who sponsored the measure.

It was a good night for the pro-choice side nationwide: they also defeated a controversial measure in Colorado, which would have defined human life as beginning with conception, and also beat back a proposed ban on abortion in South Dakota.

It also looks like Gov. Terminator will salvage some of his reputation as a political reformer, as voters appear to be passing Proposition 11, the Schwarzenegger-sponosored measure to take the job of drawing new legislative district maps away for the legislators themselves and giving it to an independent commission. Hallelujah.

9:30 p.m. The bells in the tower of the landmark Ferry Building in San Francisco began to toll the eight o'clock hour at the very instant that the networks all declared the West Coast states had made Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

At that moment, the full realization began to sink in that the nation had elected an African-American as its leader, a transformational event that will change the county forever. Not long after, my four-year old grandson, Brooklyn, called on the cell phone and said, "Obama's the president now." The thought that he would grow up in a world where such a thing is no longer unthinkable seemed extraordinary, and I hoped he would remember tonight the rest of his life. Yes, we can.

6:58 p.m. It must have been painful for Fox News to be the first network to call Ohio for Obama, but to their credit they did it. Michael Barone, the Fox consultant, is also the author of the Almanac of American Politics and knows more about the nuts and bolts of political demographics than almost anyone in the country, so as hard as it was, he delivered a scoop to Fox.

The question now is not whether Obama wins, but how big of a mandate he can claim. It's clear for certain that the fundamental premise of his campaign - breaking the polarized structure of Red States-Blue States - has succeeded, as he's leading in Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado, in addition to winning Ohio - all states won by George Bush four years ago.

Just got off air with Debra Saunders, the conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who loyally insisted that McCain could still pull off a miracle win. Sorry, Debra, the fat lady is getting ready to sing.

5:21 p.m. Chris Lahane, who served as Al Gore's chief spokesman in the 2000 campaign and earlier worked in the Clinton White House, just arrived on the set for a quick interview. He predicted before the election that Obama would win 368 electoral votes, and with ABC and NBC calling Pennsylvania for the Democrat, Lahane just told SkyNews viewers, "It's over."

Pennsylvania was a state that John McCain poured millions of dollars and many visits into, and he needed to take it out of the Democratic column to have a clear pathway to victory

Lahane is now suggesting that Obama's win could be of an equivalent magnitude of Ronald Reagan's in 1980.

Key question: If Obama continues piling up elecotral votes, and the networks declare him the winner early, how it will affect turnout in California. This was an issue that some Democrats worried about as it could have a big impact on key contests like the Prop. 8 gay marriage issue.

4:45 pm. I'm encamped behind San Francisco's historic Ferry Building with a terrific team of British journalists here to cover election night for SkyNews, the biggest cable outfit in Great Britain.

With results sketchy so far, my first segment with presenter Anna Botting consisted of answering quizzical questions about California's ballot initiative system; can't wait to explain the chickens and veal calves involved in Prop. 2.

Locally, the big issue is San Francisco's Prop. K, which would legalize prostitution in the city. Talk about change...

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