When I started covering the General Assembly 23 years ago, Ray Warren had just been elected to his first term in the House. He was a young Republican lawyer from Matthews swept in with the Reagan landslide of 1984.
He eventually became minority leader and in 1996, outpolled all N.C. Republicans in his losing bid for the state Supreme Court. He came out of the closet in 1998 and left his party a year later. Now, in the latest chapter of a long odyssey, he's a tax assessor's attorney in suburban Washington. Here are his observations about the election:
"Election night in Washington was surreal. My partner and I watched the returns at Nellie's, a nominally gay sports bar packed with a racially diverse gay and straight crowd. Each time a state fell into the blue column the bar - and bars up and down the U Street corridor - erupted in cheers.
"There were hundreds in the bar -- men and women of all races. When CNN announced that Obama was elected at 11:00 pandemonium broke out. We jumped shouted and hugged perfect strangers. It was like the end of World War II or some other great unifying event.
"A bit later, when Obama gave his speech in Chicago I, like many others, was in tears. All the years of Jesse Helms, hate and division had been defeated. Not only the nation, but my home state and native state (Virginia and North Carolina) had been part of the redemption.
"It was an unexpected and powerful emotional moment that overwhelmed me. Seeing my tears, a young black woman silently reached over and took my arm as if to say "it will be OK". I was struck by the immense irony of that act of simple kindness. On the most important night of the nation's history to African Americans, a young black woman was comforting me, an old white southern man, overcome with the emotion of the moment.
"As we left to catch a cab back to Virginia, the street was alive with impromptu celebrations. Horns honked, people danced in the street and there were shouts of joy. A friend texted me to say that he and hundreds were gathered in front of the White House shouting 'yes we can'. And for once, it was true. We can.
"And we did."