By Tyler Casey and Drew Olson   Published Nov 08, 2006 at 5:42 AM
In the end, it’s all about the party.

With the time for ringing doorbells, shaking hands, kissing babies, sticking bumper stickers, distributing yard signs, flooding mailboxes and blowing out phone banks passed, there was nothing for candidates and their supporters to do Tuesday night except eat, drink and watch returns with their family, campaign workers and close friends. sent correspondents to two parties on Tuesday night -- U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s gathering at the Lakefront Brewery and Wauwatosa Ald. Jim Sullivan’s soiree at Friday’s Front Row Grill at Miller Park.

To use the popular sports terms, one election was a "blowout," while the other was a "nail-biter."

Kohl won his fourth term by nearly a 2-1 margin over his challenger, Robert Gerald Lorge. Though the victory was deemed a formality months ago, the party had a somewhat serious vibe with lighthearted undertones.

Optimism among Kohl’s supporters, who shared the party with Rep. Gwen Moore, ran high early.

"I say we’re getting ready to take back America," said a red-clad partygoer.

Lakefront Beers flowed freely from taps, Swedish meatballs and spinach dip were gobbled up, and campaign stickers were handed out as people filled in to the party. And it felt like a party. Suits and ties were the exception, while denim, baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts were the rule.

Most of the attention in the room was turned to the wall-sized projection screen showing CNN’s election coverage.  Applause was heard whenever the results of Kohl or Moore’s race were shown. The down-to-the-wire governor’s race resulted in alternating cheers or boos, depending on who was winning at the time.

Indeed, it might seem odd for Wisconsinites to be cheering Senate election results in Pennsylvania and New York, but when your state’s major federal races were declared all but over before they started, people need some kind of a competition to attach themselves to.

At 8:30 p.m., it was announced that Sen. Kohl had entered the building. This led to chants of "Herb Kohl" from a group of drunk young men that sounded like they might have been imported from a Bucks game.

After making the rounds in the crowded room, both Moore and Kohl took the podium to deliver victory speeches. Moore thanked Milwaukee for coming out to vote for her and let the city know she appreciated it.

"I promise to represent you well," she said.

Moore then introduced Kohl as "a man who eats oatmeal for breakfast" and "hot dogs at the airport." While he took the podium without visible foodstuffs, Kohl did express gratitude to the people of Wisconsin for voting him into a fourth term.

"I love the people that I have served," Kohl said. "Helping the people of Wisconsin has been the hallmark of my 18 years in Washington, and I pledge to you tonight that I will continue to do that."

After the candidates spoke, partygoers went back to watching the races going on locally and nationally. While Democrats enjoyed major victories in several regions, the race involving Sullivan was close for much of the night.

The crowd at Friday’s cheered with glee when Sullivan was shown to be ahead, but then groaned when the ticker showed that Reynolds was in the lead. Throughout the evening, drinks flowed and the tables were full of chips and pretzels.

It was approaching midnight when Sullivan stepped to a dimly-lit podium on the concourse outside the restaurant and began an impassioned speech to a small but enthusiastic group of supporters that included his parents, his campaign crew and many neighbors and friends.

After several moments, Sullivan said: "I have news for you ... You won!"

The crowd erupted in applause. Later, Sullivan revealed that he had found out about his victory shortly before taking the stage. "We were waiting and waiting and finally it got to the point where there weren’t enough precincts out for him to catch us," he said. While supporters enjoyed a champagne toast with Sullivan's wife, Linda, the couple's oldest son, Jack, read a Harry Potter book and the youngest, Malcolm, tossed plastic darts at a game in the corner.

Sullivan, an attorney who was making his first bid for office, is known to family and friends by the nickname "Kip." After Tuesday, they’ll be calling him "State Sen. Sullivan" or something more colorful.

"I guess I'll have to call him 'Your Excellence' from now on," one partygoer said as he headed for the exits at 1 a.m.