Right up until the last second, in a packed upper floor of the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel, Joe Lhota’s supporters held out a little hope.
“No chance,” a white-haired older gent replied, when asked if Lhota might win. “But he’ll be a lot closer than what they’re predicting.” The gentleman, who didn’t want to give his name, thought the poll numbers were most likely misleading, and that Lhota might get something in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the vote.
“I don’t think people are very enthusiastic about stating their support for him,” he explained. “But what they do when they’re alone, voting, is something else entirely.”
It wasn’t. When the clock struck nine and the polls closed, Lhota conceded almost immediately, having lost by nearly fifty points. In the lead-up to his announcement, although supporters were clearly struggling with some mixed feelings, they also seemed resigned to what was to come. (The open bar may have helped.)
See Also: Our Election 2013 Coverage
“I’m sad. Devastated,” said Maria Rom-Schmidt, a retired model. She came to the U.S. from Sweden as a 16-year-old. “I left because of socialism. This country gave me wonderful opportunities. In Sweden, there was no incentive to work hard.” She’s been in New York nearly 30 years, and fears that de Blasio will take the city back to the David Dinkins era, which she remembers as a grubby, dangerous time. “I wouldn’t go to Times Square. I wouldn’t take the subway after six. The squeegee guys would harass me if I didn’t give them money. But Giuliani started the change, and Bloomberg kept it up.” She fears de Blasio will divide the city “with this thing about the tale of two cities.”
She couldn’t understand the enormous gap between Lhota and de Blasio in the polls, Rom-Schmidt added, especially considering Lhota’s relative liberalism on social issues, which she shares. “When something is working, why change it so drastically?”
Still, Rom-Schmidt and a friend from the Philippines, who also declined to give her name, remained calm and philosophical about the impending loss. They chalked some of it up to naïveté.
“Americans in general don’t know what it’s like to live in a country run by a dictator,” the woman from the Philippines explained. “They’re idealistic. They think crushing the rich is the way to go.” She shrugged. “It’s very disheartening for people who want to make it here. It feels like they want to penalize people who are successful. They want to pull you down.”
Soon after, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” came blasting from the Gansevoort’s speakers, and Lhota stepped onstage.
“We’ve come to the end of a long journey,” he told the crowd. When he said he’d called “Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio” to concede the race, there was some light booing. One woman cried, “Oh, my God.”
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“No, no, no,” Lhota told them. De Blasio’s “success alone deserves my respect.” Although it was “natural to feel some disappointment,” he added, “we fought a good fight, and it was a fight worth having.” That said, “Despite what you may have heard, we are one city. … We are five boroughs, but we are one city. We are one people, and we want our city to move forward, not backwards. And I do hope our mayor-elect understands this before it’s too late.” He also quoted the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
“You’re a class act, Joe!” a man shouted from the back of the room.
Lhota also thanked his wife, Tamra, and daughter, Kathryn, adding wryly, in a reference to de Blasio’s camera-ready family, “They were working tremendously hard on the campaign, although they didn’t make a commercial.” He also thanked former mayor Rudy Giuliani for “your guidance, support and friendship,” and credited him with beginning “the renaissance of the city of New York.”
“I can honestly say we conducted our campaign with energy and substance,” Lhota concluded. “There will be Monday-morning quarterbacking, especially from people who have never been in the ring. But I will never spend one moment regretting what might have been. New Yorkers never quit. New Yorkers never surrender. New Yorkers never hide from history — New Yorkers, we make history. So let’s move forward. God bless all of you, and God bless the great city of New York.”
Lhota and his family left the stage quickly. “Don’t Stop Believing” started up again. Everyone stood still for a moment, then started making for the exits.
“We just elected a mayor who’s a clown,” Ryan Downey mourned nearby, a beer in hand. “He has no business running New York City. He has no experience. And now he’s our mayor, because he’s a Democrat.”
Downey, a Wall Street bond analyst, lives just across the street from the Gansevoort, and he’d come over for a little solidarity. “He’s a nothing,” he elaborated. “We elected a nothing.” That said, he added, “I like everything Joe Lhota stands for, but he didn’t run a great campaign.” But de Blasio will be far worse: “I just don’t think he’s worthy of New York City.”