The ballots have been counted and the confetti has settled, but for a select few this campaign season, there is still work to be done.
Fresh off a frantic election night, both Linn County Republicans and Democrats returned to their campaign offices the next morning.
“My first thought was, ‘Thank God it is over,’ ” said Diane Hoffmann, the chair of the Linn County Democrats. “My second thought was, ‘Oh my God I have to clean all this up.’ ”
The Linn County Democrats’ campaign headquarters on Mount Vernon Road SE has been a political thoroughfare for the last sixteen months, but on Wednesday morning few people remained.
Hoffmann — along with a handful of other volunteers — diligently stacked chairs, removed posters from the windows, and collected various election paraphernalia destined to return to the campaigns.
“It is a completion. It is something you set out to do, you do the job, and this is the completion,” said Doreen Meier, a 79-year-old volunteer who stopped by the office to lend a hand with the final teardown. “It is the cleanup, but it is a happy cleanup.”
Concurrently across town, at the Republican Cedar Rapids Victory Office on Collins Road NE, the atmosphere was far less cheerful.
The lights remained dimmed, doors locked, and a few volunteers who declined to comment milled about.
One woman arrived in a weathered white pickup and deposited a large stack of Republican yard signs — their wire stems speckled with fresh dirt — before promptly driving away.
“For most of us, we have done [cleanup] before,” said Steve Armstong, the chair of the Linn County GOP. Armstrong was not present at the office on Wednesday. “You have the disappointment of losing, but we have the office until the end of the month, so no one is in a particular hurry to do the teardown.”
The Linn County Democrats were in more of a rush to clear out their space, since their lease expires at the end of the week.
Before a campaign office even exists, the setup poses its own set of challenges.
Both Armstrong and Hoffmann said they choose to own and store their tables, chairs, and desks instead of renting them, because an office may need to be raised in short notice, and having the furniture on hand alleviates some headaches.
But when the time comes to find a property for lease, Hoffmann said it has historically been hard to find a landowner willing to let a campaign set up shop for the brief political season.
“Short-term leases are the worst to get because landlords want someone who is going to be there a year, two years, and it is guaranteed rent,” she said.
However, the Republicans had no trouble renting a retail property on Collins Road for only six months because Darin Garman, the owner and manager of the property, had a vacancy.
“It was not a bad experience at all,” Garman said. “Ideally at the time we would have loved to have a long-term lease, but that didn’t happen. So [renting to the Linn County GOP] gave us an opportunity to work on the marketing, and now we have a couple of folks that are looking pretty seriously at it.”
While all traces of either party will be wiped from both offices by the end of the month, and the hundreds of volunteers for both parties can have a semblance of normalcy return to their lives, Armstrong said work on future offices has already begun.
“We started looking about two months ago for locations for 2014 and going forward,” he said. “We just have an idea of what is available and what best suits our need. Because the availability changes month to month, you need to have feelers out.”