If you were looking for a few light-hearted drinks last night, hopefully you didn’t choose to have them at the Yukon Inn lounge.
The bar briefly became Al Fedoriak’s campaign headquarters, where the mayoral candidate came to watch the results of last night’s election with friends, family and supporters.
And as incumbent mayor Bev Buckway’s numbers soared to a landslide, things turned sombre.
It didn’t start out that way.
At the beginning of the evening, jaunty supporters excitedly asked each other for odds.
A few optimists predicted that as much as 75 per cent of the vote would be in Fedoriak’s favour.
Fedoriak himself seemed calm and collected, shrugging off any questions of nervousness.
“I have no reason to be nervous because I’m a winner either way,” he said.
“I enjoy everything I do. So if I don’t win this, I’ll go on and do something else.
Murray Martin, a Fedoriak supporter, ordered himself a rum and coke and then leaned over conspiratorially: “He’s really going to clean this city up,” he said.
“Council has to take over the running of this city.”
A common complaint from the Fedoriak camp is that administration has been making all of the important decisions, and council’s just following along.
“I think people are looking for someone who’s going to put the city back into the hands of the people, not the bureaucracy,” said Murray.
“Someone needs to let the bureaucrats know who’s in charge.”
Fedoriak and his supporters expected the numbers to begin flooding in shortly after the polls closed at 8 o’clock, especially the advanced polling, which could have been tallied up in advance.
But the numbers only began to trickle in a little after 9 p.m., causing one supporter to suggest Fedoriak’s first order of business should be striking a committee to deliver election results more quickly.
Over that hour, the suspense began to build.
“What suspense?” said Fedoriak as he watched for a change in the scrolling zeros.
“It’s like watching grass grow.”
“Yeah, but no longer than 10 centimetres,” someone quipped, referring to a much-mocked bylaw recently passed by council.
Finally, the first polling stations began to report.
The bar grew deathly quiet.
The first polling station came in 51 to 40 in favour of Bev Buckway.
The talkative, confident group of supporters fell into silence and squinted up at the tiny numbers climbing the screen.
The second polling station bumped the numbers up to 92 to 59 with Buckway still in the lead.
All that could be heard over the hush was soft jazz music being played and the bartender humming along from behind the bar.
One small group of people that wandered into the lounge that night for drinks fell into their own confused silence before whispering awkwardly, “What’s going on?”
“I think there’s an election happening or something.”
Another polling station came in with Buckway still in the lead 152 to 100.
It was still early in the evening, but the trend wasn’t looking good for Fedoriak.
At 9:20 p.m., with less then a third of the polling stations counted, Fedoriak tried to cut the tension.
“Well, that’s good,” he said with a meagre smile. “Looks like I’ll get to spend two weeks in Hawaii.”
After the initial shock wore off, supporters started to rally.
“I can’t believe that people wouldn’t vote for change,” said one.
“People just don’t give a damn.”
“It appears that the trend in Whitehorse is just complacency.”
They began to deconstruct the campaign, searching for what went wrong and finally concluding that they’d done all they could do.
“People get the government they deserve,” said Wayne Cousins, a friend and supporter.
“I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
If he were to do it again, there are a couple things that might have made a difference, said Fedoriak.
There was a problem with the delivery of his flyers, and he missed the candidates’ forum at the college because of a mixup with the date.
“But I don’t think it would have made much of a difference.”
At 10 p.m., with over two-thirds of the polling stations in – all consistently in favour of the incumbent mayor – Fedoriak stood up and announced he was heading down to council to congratulate Buckway.
His supporters and family got up as well, offering a few consoling words and then heading home to bed.
Later that night, Fedoriak was asked whether he’d ever run again.
“No,” came his concise answer.
“I think the public has spoken.”
Contact Chris Oke at firstname.lastname@example.org