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Calm Precedes Storm In White's Ballroom

By Thomas S. Blanton

The Boston mayor's race was "the toughest political battle I have ever seen," Mayor Kevin White said in his victory speech late last night to an enthusiastic crowd of about 2000 in the Sheraton's Grand Ballroom.

When the polls closed at 8 p.m. a subdued ballroom crowd seemed to anticipate White's pronouncement. The band played uninspired background music, and the bartenders amused themselves by lining up bottles and icing down beer.

No one was optimistic. Paul Grogan, a precinct organizer in the Fenway, said he was "scared." Grogan said he did not expect White to pull the 70 per cent Fenway majority over State Sen. Joseph Timilty that he had carried off in the preliminary election.

The first official totals were posted on the ballroom's huge vote board at 8:25 p.m. White had taken Chinatown, 241 to 100. Richard Dray, a 12-year-old "family friend of the Whites," predicted "a big win" for White and said, "People are tense just because it's hot in here."

Hot Right

For the next 45 minutes, it looked like Dray was right.

The Ted-Kennedy-look-alike who announced vote totals for the White organization made a point of announcing the White totals second, and it was always larger than Timilty's. The growing crowd in the ballroom cheered loudly at every announcement, and exploded in applause when a 3000-vote bulge for White came in from Roxbury at 8:45 p.m.

The band struck up with a Democratic stand-by: "Happy Days are Here Again."

The mounting exuberance was cut short at 9:15 p.m. when partial citywide returns were posted. White now led Timilty only 70,000 to 67,000, but it was obvious that the White vote announcers had not been posting areas that Timilty had carried.

White's uncle, Father James Patrick White from St. Louis, Mo. wandered from group to group of White supporters seeking reassurance. "Rather than say it's going to be a tie," Father White said, "I'll just predict a very close win for Kevin."

Despite a last-minute dispute from the Timilty camp over the figures White supporters were posting, the win was just that--"very close," a meager 4 to 5 per cent margin for Mayor White.

When Timilty conceded at 11:25 p.m., the ballroom crowd sang "Southie's My Home Town."

All that remained was for Kevin White to thank his supporters and quote Browning: "Spend the rest of your time with me, the best is yet to be."

Thirty minutes later, only the television people remained in the ballroom. The "best" of Election Night was "yet to be"--upstairs over bottles at the Boston Sheraton

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