The Democrats' bash

When the speech was over, the Democrats' band lit into "Taps." The day was done. Not even adrenaline could carry the partygoers further, and many began to leave.

An exhausted-looking Meryl Berkowitz put her head on DiNapoli's shoulder and made him promise to call if her apparent victory for county court turned out to be a mirage. Berkowitz, for years an overburdened legal-aid attorney, collected her young daughters and headed for the door. "Mommy, can you believe you're a judge?" one said to her. "No," she said. "Let's go."

Just when the celebration seemed to be over, a rumble started outside and swelled into the room. Crouched low and clapping their hands, a new posse of revelers led by Roger Corbin and Patrick Williams did the samba through the door. "Goosby! Goosby! Goosby!" they cheered, and the woman herself was not far behind.

Dorothy Goosby, the top vote-getter in the race for Hempstead Town Board, the first Democrat ever elected there, the first African-American to win without benefit of the GOP machine, twirled into the hall. Waving her fingers and strutting her stuff, Goosby danced like Achilles returning from war with his enemy's sword broken in half. She and her supporters filled what had been a nearly empty room.

For some, Goosby's victory was about good vanquishing evil, the oppressed throwing off the oppressor. Yet even this revelry was marked by the cold calculation of political wins and losses, as the joyous crowd considered the power that was now, suddenly, theirs. Republicans were no longer the only ones eager to divide the spoils of victory. "Watch us now," a man shouted. "Who wants to be a judge? Who wants to be a judge?"

Fueled by such fervor, the celebration started again. DiNapoli headed for the microphone and did the whole performance afresh. "If I'm dreaming this, would someone wake me up already?" he said. "What the hell is going on?"

Goosby emerged from the delirious whirl of dancers and took the stage to cries of "Rosa, Rosa"-a reference to an Oct. 28 Long Island Voice headline that dubbed her "The Rosa Parks of Nassau." When the cheering stopped, she told her supporters, in some cases one by one, how much their help had meant to her. She expressed appreciation for what the Democrats and the Working Families and other activists had done for her. She made people laugh, though she talked so long her daughters and her husband joked that it was time for her to stop.

But this was the Democrats' moment, and it was her moment, and she knew it. "He wants me to shut up," Goosby teased her audience, "but this is the first time in history that I've had the opportunity to do this."

"Thank you," she added. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

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