By Connor Boals and Maia Efrem
As the early polling results came in, the supporters of Democratic mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr., believed they were going to witness the upset of the most expensive campaign in New York City’s history.
They almost did.
At 9:30 p.m., the air was electric. Hundreds of supporters were gathered inside the third floor Trianon lounge of the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers in midtown Manhattan. At 9:51 p.m., with nine percent reporting, Thompson was only one percent behind his opponent Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It was still anyone’s race.
Strangers hugged, fists were raised and even a few tears were shed.
“I believe we have victory,” said the Rev. J.T. Causer from Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Others, like Sybyl Silverstein, an education consultant from Floral Park, Queens, maintained a “cautious compassion” as the pundits had almost unanimously predicted Bloomberg in a landslide.
Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem acted as master of ceremonies for the evening. He and a string of labor leaders and borough politicians delivered rousing chants of “eight is enough!” and “We can’t be bought!” at an ear-blasting volume.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. dominated the stage and announced the Bronx votes had gone to Thompson.
“In the city of New York, while there was a billionaire who wanted to buy the election, there were thousands of people who would not sell out,” said Diaz, as he pumped a fist in the air.
As the results trickled in, Bloomberg crept ahead, but only by four percent with 17 percent reporting.
Gov. David Paterson waited by the stage for almost half an hour as other politicians gave short inspirational speeches to the crowd.
The tiny stage was swelling with a who’s who of the city’s Democratic leaders.
After a short stump speech from the Rev. Al Sharpton, he took the stage with a tone of seriousness.
“I would like to thank Thompson for keeping the dream alive for those who are told ‘no’ but believe ‘yes,’ ” he told the cheering crowd.
With praise came reproach as well.
“Too many Democrats stayed home today,” he said. “And too many Democrats who should have stayed home were tantalized away.”
At 11:40 p.m., Thompson, his wife and his daughter approached the podium. He was met with vigorous applause.
“A few minutes ago, I called Mayor Bloomberg to congratulate him on his victory,” he said. A wave of boos swept forward, overwhelming Thompson, who calmly asked for order. “Tonight the votes are not in our favor,” he said. “But we still have so much to be proud of. This campaign was about standing strong.”
Monica Hankins, an office manager from Story Avenue in the Bronx said she felt Bloomberg’s term limit was one of the key issues in the election. At the end of the four years, she wanted the question of reversing the three-term limit to be put to the voters.
“I feel like Bloomberg disrespected us,” she said. “It feels like a dictatorship now.”
Another Bronx resident from Pelham Parkway, Aisha Ahmed, said she was “disgusted” by the results.
“We live in a rich country where a mayor just spent $100 million on a campaign but people still sleep outside of churches,” said Ahmed, the president of a medical consulting company.
Although the mayor’s seat didn’t go to the Democrats, spirits were high over the election of Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
“The Democratic Party had some tremendous gains tonight, the people rejected the politics of Mayor Bloomberg,” said Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx borough president and 2005 mayoral candidate. “I think he’s going to have a rough four years.”