The Republican candidate mounted the greatest GOP challenge in 50 years, but conceded defeat at 1:15 a.m. Supporters glumly lingered in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue amidst the red and blue balloons, crowding around TV screens, watching the last few votes come through. Reluctantly, in the wee hours, Sam Katz fans admitted they had lost the mayorship by a mere one percentage point. "Too close. Too close," roared supporters, as Sam Katz stepped up on stage at 1:15 a.m. before hundreds of loyal fans to acknowledge his defeat, even as numbers continued to come in showing that the race would be just as close as had been predicted. "We did as well as I think anybody could have expected us to have done," Katz said. Flanked by his wife Connie and his four children, Katz, 49, told the crowd he was proud of his campaign. "I'm confident that during the course of the campaign, my opponent learned a lot about himself and the city," he said. And Katz thanked his supporters and his family. "The only regret I have," he said, gesturing to Connie, "is that this beautiful woman will not be first lady of Philadelphia." Katz and his family left the room immediately after his speech without speaking to reporters, leaving numerous teary-eyed fans behind. The night was a roller-coaster ride for Katz's supporters, who watched as the early numbers rolled in showing Street far ahead. But as Katz's strongholds in Northeast and South Philadelphia began reporting, the race tightened. Still, at no point did Katz actually pull ahead. "I'm devastated," said Katz supporter Myrna Shure, 62. "I feel sorry for the City of Philadelphia." Lou Geibel, 31, echoed the sentiments. "I'm just disappointed," he said. "I hope John Street does right for this city." Deputy field director Patrick McIntyre was openly sobbing at the night's close. "Although Sam will not be our next mayor, we've all had one of the best experiences of our lives," he said, turning away to hug another campaign member. It was hard to believe that, just a few hours before, sentiments were so very different. A festive mood pervaded the gilt-covered Park Hyatt at the Bellevue ballroom early in the evening, as about 500 supporters drank martinis and danced to the strains of "What a Wonderful World." Republicans and Democrats alike partied for Katz -- demonstrating the wide range of support that defined his campaign. And his loyal supporters, many of whom had canvassed for votes all day in the rain, thought their man would win the day. "Katz is really saying, 'let's see how we can make the city prosper,'" said Miguel Vazquez, 38, who had helped with field efforts all day long. Katz's successful campaign had been surprising in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4-to-1 margin. He was the first Republican in recent history to come within sight of the mayor's office -- and would have been the first of his party to be elected to City Hall in over 50 years. By avoiding party affiliation and focusing on his fiscally conservative platform, Katz drew the race to a dead-even point up until Election Day. Katz's crowd remained confident well into the night, proudly wearing their Katz buttons, even though early returns showed Street pulling away. But gradually the band began to pack up and some subdued fans started to head for the door. Soon the room became a lot less wonderful and a lot more somber. As the glasses were cleared away and disheartened supporters crept to the door, College junior and Katz volunteer Cam Winton admitted he was upset by the outcome. "I'm disappointed," he said. "[But] it's incredible how far the Katz campaign has come and it's incredible what Katz has achieved."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.