Governor Francis W. Sargent lost gracefully last night, exhibiting no signs of bitterness in the short concession speech which marked the end of six years on Capitol Hill.
"I am anxious to help the next governor, Michael Dukakis," Sargent said, "because I love the people of this great Commonwealth."
After the speech, Sargent paraded around the ballroom at the Somerset apartments, shaking hands, thanking aides and supporters.
But the ballroom was never full last night, the mood never enthusiastic. Sargent had been gaining on Dukakis the last few weeks, but victory was never within his reach.
"No, it wasn't Watergate, but inflation," Sargent said, blaming his loss on national problems. "There was just a lot of frustration about high prices built up among the voters," he added.
A crowd of nearly 500 supporters had slowly trickled into the ornate Louis XVI ballroom throughout the early evening. A few seasoned pols shaking hands and slapping backs stood out in the group of mostly young campaign workers, almost all under 30.
Until about 9 p.m., the crowd remained hopeful. "The Governor is still confident," Steve Crosby, Sargent's campaign manager, told the gathering just 40 minutes before the concession speech.
Crosby drew a few cheers when he announced that a ward in Brookline--Dukakis's home district--had gone heavily for Sargent.
Dukakis a Winner
But the word had spread that two TV networks had predicted Dukakis the winner, and the staff had to face defeat.
About 20 minutes later, the top campaign aides quietly left the ballroom to hear Sargent place a congratulatory call to Dukakis and to plan Sargent's concession speech.
The TV flood lights came on and the Governor's running mate, Donald Dwight, entered the room to make a short concession speech. His family surrounded him, barely keeping their composure.
Sargent followed, bringing tears to the eyes of his young campaign workers.
"I think we had the right guy in this election," Brian Young '76, a campaign coordinator said after the concession speech. "Like with McGovern, we lost, but we had the right man."
The press cleared out quickly, but many supporters remained behind to mull over the campaign. "I'm leaving now," one campaign worker said, "before everyone gets drunk.