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After waging a passionate campaign that turned the usually uneventful general election for D.C. mayor into a dramatic contest—if not ultimately a close one—David Catania conceded defeat tonight to Democrat Muriel Bowser.

Fighting back tears, Catania told the crowd of supporters at the Long View Gallery in Shaw, “Not all fights are easy. Not all fights are winnable. The important thing is to fight.”

Despite the many factors making a Catania mayoralty unlikely—-he’s white in a city whose mayors in the Home Rule era have all been black, and a Republican-turned-independent where they’ve all been Democrats—-he put his odds earlier today at 50-50. Instead, with most votes tallied, Bowser led Catania by a margin of about 20 points, an even wider victory than had been forecast by the polls, which consistently put her ahead.

Catania, who had questioned the polls, called the nine-month campaign “the closest thing to a pregnancy I’ll ever have.” But he insisted his work is not wasted by the outcome of the election.

“When we talk about what we hoped to accomplish, we meant it,” he said. “And that dream continues.”

Catania had cast himself as a champion of better schools and the key to disrupting the Democratic machine politics that have seen one elected official after another succumb to corruption. But his detractors pointed to his sometimes volatile temper, and Bowser was able to stay largely above the fray and ride her party backing and better-funded effort to a convincing victory.

Catania urged his supporters to back mayor-elect Bowser. “Who will join me in helping our new mayor succeed?” he asked the crowd. About half of the attendees raised their hands tepidly.

Catania forfeited his seat on the D.C. Council to wage this campaign. He’ll be replaced by Elissa Silverman, who along with incumbent Anita Bonds was well on her way to winning one of the two available at-large seats as Catania conceded. As for Catania, his next chapter is yet to be determined.

Photo by Aaron Wiener