- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

The countdown to certification of election results was a day of high drama in Florida while in Texas and Washington, D.C., the two presidential contenders waited and watched as if it were Election Day once again.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore both attended church, then huddled with campaign advisers.

"This is like Election Day," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said in Austin. "That's how we're all treating it over here."

All day at Mr. Gore's official residence within the gated Naval Observatory, uniformed Secret Service officers, D.C. police and Defense Department security personnel watched over about 400 noisy Bush and Gore supporters who traded barbs shouted over megaphones.

Yelling "Get Out of Cheney's House" and "Kiss My Chad," Republicans standing on the right side of 34th Street were matched word-for-angry-word by Democrats on the left side.

"The people over there are very angry. But I'm not angry," Dale Chiusano of Bethesda, Md., said as he pointed to the Democratic crowd across the street. "This is democracy in action."

"[Mr. Gore's] trying to manipulate the votes to win the election he's trying to change the rules."

On the other side, "DUI" and the Jesse Jackson-coined "Stay Out the Bushes" were the Democrats' verbal refrain.

"All the kind of talk that's come from Republicans has divided people," said Susanne Middledorf of Montgomery Village. "It's enraged the Democrats."

A sea of signs supporting each candidate appeared high above the heads of protesters. Police sometimes had to warn protesters not to walk into the streets with banners.

At one point, a lady left her car sporting a Gore-Lieberman sign and a ticket she had just been given for impeding traffic. Chants of "tow that car" sprang from the Bush camp.

Both Bush and Gore demonstrators even began yelling out obscenities as the rhetoric reached a fever pitch. When rumors spread around 7 p.m. that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris had certified the vote, the song "Loser" by Beck, played on a boom box, overwhelmed all the shouting.

Republicans gathered around the radio to listen to Mrs. Harris' announcement and cheered loudly, drowning out the Democrats.

Like fans of a losing home team, most of the Democrats left en masse after the announcement.

Gore supporter Kendall Ludwig said Mr. Gore should fight on.

"The real trouble with this election is how it was conducted," she said. "The system is weak."

The candidates laid low. Mr. Bush attended services alone at Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin. His wife, Laura, stayed behind at the Governor's Mansion to help their daughter Barbara prepare for her return to Yale University.

Senior Pastor James L. Mayfield said in his pastoral prayer: "We are especially concerned about our nation. We ask God's guidance and comfort and grace be with both candidates and their families as they go through this time of stress in this difficult time for our nation."

In Washington, Mr. Gore attended Mount Vernon Baptist Church with his wife, Tipper, and their daughter Kristin.

In the afternoon, he huddled with campaign chairman William M. Daley. Mr. Gore also discussed his legal strategy in a phone call with Ron Klain, a top adviser detailed to Florida.

The vice president left public comment to surrogates, such as his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, and congressional Democrats who fanned out on the Sunday talk shows.

In Florida, it was a day of drama as the waiting stretched into the evening; people paced, fretted and screamed. The deadline for recount results loomed, and no one at the Capitol knew what was going on.

Demonstrators ranted outside, one side chanting "President Gore," the other, "President Bush."

The race to manually recount Palm Beach County's votes ended around 4:40 p.m., when the chairman of the canvassing board announced he and his two colleagues could not meet the 5 p.m. deadline for submitting the county's votes to the state for certification.

"We have no other choice but to shut down," said an obviously weary Charles Burton, who had forgone sleep for almost 36 hours in a losing race against the deadline. The board submitted a partial hand count and a letter promising to supply the additional count as soon as it becomes available.

The secretary of state huddled in her first-floor office behind locked doors. The 5 p.m. deadline for final submission of Florida votes came and went with no announcement.

"Everybody's been trying to figure out what the game plan is, but no one knows what's going on," said Donald Severance, sergeant at arms for the Florida Senate.

Hour after hour passed with no word. What was Mrs. Harris doing? Where were the other two members of the state canvassing commission?

Finally, the announcement came at 7:33 p.m.

In Florida, a blare of car horns and a frenzied waving of flags welcomed Mrs. Harris' certification of Mr. Bush as the winner.

In Washington, Republican Dan York of Alexandria, Va., said of the announcement, "It's terrific," but added, "No way is the election over with."

"This is going to go on for the next couple of weeks," Mr. York said, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court is still set to hear an argument from Mr. Bush's lawyers on Friday.

• Steve Miller in West Palm Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.

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