I'll say this for Ray Allen - he throws a nice victory party. His get-together Tuesday night at the Esquire Club on Madison's north side was pleasantly laid back and mercifully uncrowded. His guests included business folk and politicians, as well as "people from Allied Drive" -- as Allen repeatedly pointed out.
"I brought them all together to move this campaign forward -- and that's what I'll do with this city," Allen said in one interview on the 10 o'clock news, after it became clear that he would advance to the general election for Madison mayor with 30% of the vote.
Most refreshing was Allen himself. Unlike candidates who hide like rock stars until the requisite concessions have been made, then take the stage to make their speeches, he was present throughout, talking to reporters and supporters, occasionally hoisting a cute kid for an on-camera interview. He comes across as a nice guy in a way that suggests he's not faking.
I told Allen how much I liked his event. "We're just average people," he said proudly. "You guys support the politician." He was referring to the incumbent, Dave Cieslewicz, who squeaked by with 58% of the vote. "We don't support anybody," I responded. He smiled good-naturedly.
Campaign spokesman Semmi Pasha was pleased with the result. "Of course, I'd like to see it a little bit higher," he said. But he's encouraged that Cieslewicz drew less than 60%. And he views the 10% of the electorate who voted for Peter Munoz as potential Allen supporters.
"Peter's folks found something lacking in city hall, and Peter inspired them," Pasha told me. "We're prepared to reach out to Peter's voters, prepared to reach out to anybody who for whatever reason did not vote today."
How does Allen think he can turn a 30% showing into a winning margin? Allen's canned response: "We build a coalition by developing a vision of hope and opportunity for all the people of Madison." He mentioned Allied Drive, schools, water quality, crime and poverty. And, no surprise, he put in a bad word for trolleys, as an example of Cieslewicz's "misplaced priorities."
But these are all issues he's already raised. Will his campaign now present something new?
"There will be issues that we'll lay out as we move forward," he assured me. Like what? "We'll lay them out as we move forward."
In his refreshingly brief speech to the three dozen or so people in attendance, Allen said his campaign was "about all of the people of Madison" and his vision is of "a place that's inclusive of all of us. Let's move forward."
Then it was back to interviews and mingling. At one point a supporter held a cell phone to Allen's mouth because his hands were full. "We're moving forward," he shouted into it. And, at the time, he was.