By the time the final numbers were in Saturday night, the celebration had mellowed and the crowd had thinned at The Whistling Pig on Ferguson, the neighborhood pub where Mark Clayton held his election returns watch party. The councilman-elect was in the back, leaning against a pool table, looking stunned.
“Yeah, we had a pretty good day,” he understated when asked how he was doing.
Clayton’s wife, Kelly, seemed similarly nonplussed. Everyone assumed the race for District 9’s open seat would require a runoff between two of the five candidates; almost no one, including the Claytons, thought he would win outright with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Kelly Clayton noted that her husband’s parents and siblings weren’t in town, though would be coming in later this week for their daughter’s preschool graduation. “That trumped the election,” she joked.
The candidate, who was hoping to claim a percentage in the high 30s, couldn’t believe it when early results showed him with a strong lead. Clayton says he received a call from competitor Darren Boruff a few minutes after 7 p.m., congratulating him on his win. Clayton argued that this was only the early voting numbers; they both had a long night ahead. Boruff, however, insisted on conceding the race, saying he had known for a couple of days that momentum was swinging in Clayton’s direction. It was “a class act,” Clayton recalled during an interview at the Advocate offices this morning.
How did Clayton pull it off? He grasped for answers at the Whistling Pig, and still was pondering the question this morning. Was it the 4,000 doors he personally knocked on? The 2,000 thank you notes he wrote to people who answered? His stance against building the Trinity toll road? The fact that he was the only candidate who has young kids in public school?
Maybe it was all of these things combined, but Clayton also feels like his win had to do with a philosophical shift. Back in December, when he had just launched his campaign, he told us, “There’s just a feeling, right or wrong, that City Hall hasn’t really been paying attention to what people are wanting in our district. Instead, it’s been: ‘Let us tell you what’s best. Here’s what’s good for you.’ I want to make sure the values in our area are represented not only in our district but in our city as a whole.”
He repeated that sentiment throughout the campaign and again this morning. Clayton says his approach to City Hall will be similar to how he approaches the small business he runs: a focus on customer service.
“I work for you,” he says to his new constituents. “You matter.”
Additional reporting by Sam Gillespie
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