Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass, partying down at Avalon in Old Town Tuesday night, had every reason to celebrate, what with taking a strong 48.3 percent of the vote by the time all Eureka precincts had been counted. But barring a miracle in the pile of absentee votes yet to be tabulated, her just-shy-of-50-percent showing means that she's going to be headed into faceoff with the second-place finisher, incumbent Bonnie Neely, in November.
When she received news of the final vote, a friend came up and told her that she made an excellent showing. "I guess I'm just an overachiever," she said, adding that she would be back out on the campaign trail in a couple of weeks.
Earlier, Neely was down F Street at Brick & Fire Restaurant when the first not-so-hot results came across. At the time, she wasn't ready to give comment, saying that there was still a lot of counting left to be done. But supporters rallied round. With only 30.4 percent of the vote, they're going to have to marshal their forces for the long, hard slog into November.
At Roy's Club, Eureka City Councilmember Jeff Leonard was fairly upbeat early in the night, even if it was pretty that he was headed for third place. "I will say this -- our campaign picked up more momentum as time went on and I have never had so many people work on my behalf before. I would have liked to have proved that a hundred dollar campaign can beat a hundred thousand dollar campaign, but ..."
The results from the McKinleyville area had yet to be counted when the Journal had to go to press, but it was clear that insurance agent Ryan Sundberg was going to command the largest share of the vote. When our reporter tipped him to the early results, he reddened a bit. "This is my first time with this, but it's good to be ahead," he said. A cheer went up when the news had spread. The boisterous Sundberg crew had taken over the Silver Lining restaurant at the Eureka-Arcata airport for the occasion, and the party was officially on. The absentee vote and only two Fifth District precincts had been counted at press time, but Sundberg was way out ahead of his three competitors with 43.8 percent.
Sundberg's two principal competitors -- Patrick Cleary and Pat Higgins -- did everyone the favor of holding their parties at adjoining locations, while also doing everyone the disservice of finishing so closely to one another. Over at Six Rivers Brewery, it looked like Cleary had a solid edge, with 28.1 percent of the vote to Higgins' 23.5, but with so few votes counted in McKinleyville it wasn't yet a sure thing. "In business you get immediate results," Cleary told a reporter. "With this you don't."
Higgins, meanwhile, presided over a rib barbecue at a private residence next door. He hadn't given up the ghost yet, but he was in a philosophic mood. "I'm feeling good about the effort of the campaign," he said. "I've been surrounded by friemds, they've worked hard for me and I think Ithey've brought some new ideas into the discussion."
The swankiest party of the evening was at Gabriel's restaurant, where incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos held court. At press time, the incumbent was nearly neck-and-neck with archenemy Allison Jackson, with around 38 percent of the vote each -- clearly not the big victory that he might have hoped for. "We'll have a plurality," Gallegos campaign consultant Richard Salzman told his candidate near the end of the evening. "Barely, but we'll have one."
Around the corner, candidate Paul Hagen presided over an anti-party -- a dozen or so people in his campaign headquarters, chairs arranged in a circle. Hagen was proud of the campaign he had run, but the results were clearly not living up to his expectations. He said he'd knocked on 3,900 doors, a lot of that covered door-to-door on a bike. He said that he's met a lot of people in his first-ever political campaign, and that a lot of them expressed disappointment with the incumbent.
Jackson will have to work hard from now until November to capture the Hagen voters, most of whom, like Gallegos, come from the left side of the aisle. Nevertheless, jubilation reined at Eureka's Elks Lodge, where Jackson was holding a joint party with Sheriff candidate Mike Downey. There were about 150 revelers packed into the lodge for most of the evening, celebrating their candidates' strong showing. "I'm gonna cut myself off [the coffee] here in a minute," Jackson said near the end. "I've got clients. I've got to work tomorrow."
And Downey, Jackson's party-mate, was the evening's one clear and unambiguous winner, taking in a solid two-thirds of the vote at press time. The roar went up at the Elks Lodge for both candidates when the first absentee ballots came in, and Downey was a charmed man the rest of the night -- until he, too, could stand no more. "I'm ready to go home and go to bed," he declared.
Mike Hislop's party at the Humboldt Bay Inn followed a similar trajectory -- jubilation and high spirits leading up to the crash -- but the evening, of course, ended on a much lower note. By the end of it, Hislop colleagues who were watching the computer for new results stopped going over to the candidate to inform him of the new numbers, reading it out amongst themselves and leaving their man room to simply chat away the rest of the night with his friends.
-- Reporting by Heidi Walters, Ryan Burns, Bob Doran, Andrew Goff, John Osborn and Ahron Sherman.