It was 9:30 on election night and about 50 people were waiting for Bill Rubin in a bar that smelled like hot wings.
The Sternos were keeping the food hot at the Red Rooster Inn, and sitcoms played on the flatscreen as accommodating bartenders surfed the channels for results. Rubin was trailing with 47 percent of the vote in the 10th Councilmanic District. The Democrat was challenging incumbent Republican Brian O’Neill, who’s represented the district for 32 years. This was the first serious challenge to O’Neill in his three decades at the helm.
“Vote for my dad Bill Rubin,” read the navy and white shirts his son and daughter wore. His wife, parents, brother and sister had similar tops, while his other supporters donned their general pro-Rubin shirts over long sleeves with “push button 227” on the back.
“Tired and sore,” was how Frank Dowd described himself. After getting acquainted with Rubin “through TV and other big shots” (like Sen. Mike Stack and Councilman Bill Greenlee), Dowd spent Tuesday working the 7th and 8th divisions promoting the Democrat.
As the crowd waited for Rubin, the minutes ticked by and O’Neill had already arrived at nearby Knowlton Mansion in Fox Chase. The only thing left to do was wait. By 9:40, O’Neill had 57.69 percent of the vote over Rubin’s 47.31 percent, with 63 percent of the precincts counted.
“Win, lose or draw, he put out a great effort,” Rubin’s father Bill said of the candidate.
“He has worked so very hard,” mother Marylou gushed. “I know he’ll make a good councilman.
Thirty-five minutes later, it was all but over. By 10:15, O’Neill had accepted his victory, and Rubin had stepped down from the Red Rooster’s stage, having thanked his supporters and family for their encouragement and looking pretty optimistic for a guy still adjusting to a loss. See his full speech in the video below.
“I think we showed there’s a lot of things we need to change” in the city, he said. Rubin said his campaign sent a “loud and clear message that you have to pay attention to the voters.”
Among supporters, there was nothing but praise for the man who ran against a district legend.
“I’m happy of the kind of race Bill put on,” 57th Ward Secretary Michael Fagan said as people trickled out of the Red Rooster. “He’s very professional and worked harder than any candidate I’ve ever seen in my life.”