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As he walked the perimeter of the back room at Busboys & Poets at 5th and K streets NW, Andy Shallal appeared energetic and confident, hugging supporters, slapping shoulders, and kissing babies. Campaign workers offered encouragement, telling him how much they’ve done to support him. “I think I got you some votes in Ward 4,” one said. “I convinced three people to vote for him,” claimed another.

News Channel 8 was projecting onto a screen, and joyous campaign voters cheered whenever his image appeared, booing other candidates and reports that don’t favor Shallal. Early in the evening, the most optimistic supporters continued to predict victory, one going so far as to tell a young volunteer that she might soon be working for Shallal in the mayor’s office. And for just a few moments, the room seemed filled with hope.

By 10 p.m., that hope appeared to wane. Guests packed up and headed home as poll numbers began to come in. Instead of addressing the room, Shallal, the consummate host, stood by the door and thanked them for coming, before sitting down for a snack. The  volunteers who did stick around began changing their tunes.

“It’s not about winning and losing,” one man said. “It’s about getting your message out.” No one would be specific about what they’d like to see Shallal do in the future, but they talked about his commitment to education and affordable housing.

Finally, at 10:55, Shallal addressed the crowd.

“It’s exhausting,” he said, “but if you asked me right now if I would do it again, I would say absolutely.” He got in a few digs at the media (“you sell more newspapers when it’s a horse race as opposed to a true democratic process”) and guaranteed supporters that he’s not finished campaigning:

“We’re not done yet, not by any stretch of the imagination.”

Photo by Caroline Jones