"You know what? I really thought you were going to pull this off." That's a young woman at Richard Romero's house consoling him as the news station scrolls disappointing numbers across the screen. "It wasn't for lack of effort," says a young man in a suit. "That's what we didn't know, was how many would just vote for Berry."
"You ready to go outside?" asks KOB reporter Eric Kahnert. Romero exits his home first, followed by his core campaign staff. Under the blinding spotlight outside, he waits to acknowledge his loss live on television. The cameraman works on the shot. Supporters continue to trickle out of the house, and keys emerge from pockets. They're ready to head home. They shake hands with the man they thought would be the next mayor.
A monitor on the ground next to the news van is flickering. Romero leans down, and the reporter squats next to him. They watch Mayor Martin Chavez give a not-quite concession speech. Family and friends lean in for the view. Chavez says something about a "first-class transition."
Now to Romero. He says all the right things. Berry was a gentleman during the campaign. And Romero's own campaign was up against the machine at City Hall, he points out. People wanted a change, and they're going to get one.
But is it a good change? That's what I ask after the cameras are off and the friends disperse. "I think it will be," he says. "I was not happy with the way things were going."
And then there's the elephant in the room. In this nonpartisan race, it seems Republican Berry nailed down the conservative vote, while Romero and Chavez split the Dems down the middle. "Obviously the Republican Party coalesced around Berry," Romero says. "That's the way it works. Independents played a huge part in this, too."
But that's not the last you'll hear from Romero. He's been in politics a long time. He's won some. He's lost some. "I've been down this road before," he says.