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As midnight approached, the crowd of well-dressed young people fanned out around the Venice space where Nick Melvoin hosted his election-night party. For the first time all night, he addressed them formally.

The candidate for the L.A. school board’s District 4 seat seemed poised for a runoff election with incumbent Steve Zimmer, the school board president.

“I learned that half the people in this room didn’t realize that it was going to be a runoff until I told them,” Melvoin said. He thanked his supporters — many of whom knew him from high school or college — for sticking with him, and for fighting with him to unseat an incumbent. People told him to wait until a seat on the board opened, but five years of continued L.A. Unified leadership was too long, he said.

As Melvoin finished speaking, a group of young people huddled around a group of MacBooks stirred. Finally, after hours of waiting and refreshing an elections results website, new tallies showed Zimmer’s lead slightly narrowing.

Melvoin said the group would move from the loft to his office and order pizza as they monitored results, but it seemed likely his campaigning wasn’t over.

“The political minds in this room think we’re heading for a runoff,” Melvoin said, pointing to the people at their computers. “But they’re also the people who predicted Hillary would win.” He continued to thank his team, including his mother, who had to duck her head out from behind the camera she was holding to acknowledge her mention.

Also with Melvoin was Bill Burton, a former Obama administration spokesman. Burton now works for consulting firm SKD Knickerbocker and as Melvoin’s strategist. As results trickled in, Burton and Melvoin played a spirited game of foosball. 

Burton said he got involved in the school board race in part because when he was a kid growing up in Buffalo, his father would bring him to school board meetings. “He raised hell, and seeing him make a difference made me believe I could,” Burton said. “Being on a school board is one of the most important jobs in the world.” 

He met Melvoin through a friend, and calls him “one of the best candidates I’ve ever worked with, at any level,” because he is disciplined and works hard.

When asked to reflect on mistakes the campaign has made, Burton thought for a minute, and came up short. “He’s done everything he could to win,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a thing he should not feel proud of. And I’ve thought about this a lot in the last week: You look at numbers that are close and second-guess yourself, but there’s nothing we could have recast or redone.”

How Burton describes the race, in a nutshell: “It is a distillation of visions. Steve Zimmer thinks the way things are going is pretty good. Nick thinks it’s awful.”

If there is a runoff, he said, Melvoin’s campaign will include further advertisements, mailers and media appearances. While they will “refine the message and the strategy,” Burton said, “the formula worked.”

For the latest on the vote count, go to our site — where the numbers will be updated as they come in.

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