Leaning in, his face contorted in anger, the man in the tight leather jacket yelled aggressively.
“We should have you shot!”
It was the first major threat I’d ever experienced on the job.
And it was unexpected.
After all, this isn’t Russia, where last week political journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment.
And it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq, where the number of kidnapped and executed journalists continues to rise.
It was Tuesday night at the High Country Inn, and Yukon Party candidates and supporters were awaiting the election results.
A couple of weeks ago, straws were drawn at The News to determine who would cover the different parties on election night.
I drew the Yukon Party. It wasn’t the short straw. I wanted this assignment, as did others.
Arriving around 7:30 p.m., I found the conference room nearly empty.
The CBC was setting up and Bruce McLaughlin was pinning candidates’ campaign signs on the wall.
McLaughlin, a friend of Elaine Taylor’s, had come from the Northwest Territories to help with her campaign.
Taylor’s official agent Percy Cullen was also there, talking about the campaign and Taylor’s popularity.
It was pleasant.
But as more people started to trickle in, the mood changed.
During an interview with Copperbelt candidate Russ Hobbis, Taylor’s executive assistant Chris Best interrupted.
Yelling, he attacked The News, referenced Friday’s front-page editorial, which urged voters to reject the Yukon Party, and questioned our right to be there at all.
Hobbis walked away during the verbal assault.
After the lengthy tirade petered out, Best said, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t shoot the messenger.”
The guy in the tight leather jacket disagreed. That’s when he uttered his threat about having me shot.
And this set the tone.
“Who’s the loneliest person in the room?” yelled party supporter Doug Kearns, waving a beer bottle in the air.
“The Yukon News.”
It was met with guffaws.
After a curt interview with campaign manager Craig Tuton, another partygoer issued a second threat.
Like the others, he was angry. And yelling.
Stabbing the air between us with his finger, he hollered at me, attacked the paper and threatened editor Richard Mostyn.
“I’m surprised he’s still alive,” he said.
“One of these days he’s going to be walking on the wrong side of the street at the wrong time ….”
By 9 p.m. the room was crowded, beer was flowing freely and people grew louder.
Repeatedly, Kearns yelled out his loneliest-person-in-the-room quip.
Others joined the heckling, and Porter Creek Centre MLA Archie Lang, who gave a brief interview earlier, called out, “Yukon News,” with a laugh.
When Porter Creek North MLA Jim Kenyon was approached, he turned away.
“I’ve made my own executive decision only to talk with legitimate press,” he said.
“I am going to follow you around and make sure no one talks to you,” said former Yukon Party candidate Cynthia Kearns, grabbing my arm as I made my way through the crowd.
She meant it.
“Don’t talk to her, she’s the Yukon News,” said Kearns, interrupting successive interviews with candidates.
Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers ignored her, finishing the interview.
So did Taylor and Riverdale South MLA Glenn Hart.
Nevertheless, the heckling continued.
In fact, others took up the jeers. And a stout woman with a camera kept pushing in during interviews to hustle the subjects away.
McIntyre-Takhini candidate Vicki Durrant tried to turn things around.
“I like Genesee and I’ll talk to her,” Durrant told Cynthia Kearns, when the woman tried to nix the interview.
And Kearns tempered her aggression.
It’s not personal, she said.
But she continued to interrupt interviews.
Near the night’s end, after three hours, local realtor Dan Lang singled me out.
Aggressive, literally spitting out his words, Lang directed his anger with the newspaper at me.
After Premier Dennis Fentie addressed the room via speakerphone from Watson Lake, Tuton was approached a second time.
He waved his arm, brushing me off.
Doug Kearns resurrected the loneliest person in the room joke.
“Go home,” murmured some in the crowd.
It was 10:30 p.m.
The Yukon Party had won its second majority.
For three hours I’d been yelled at, heckled, shoved and sprayed with spit.
They’d tried to intimidate me, and delivered their threats.
I had the story.
And I left.