In defeat, Heydt showed a side few voters ever saw

Defeated Allentown mayoral candidate William Heydt stood outside a darkened Shanty restaurant on N. 19th Street Tuesday night, hugging his crying granddaughter, Meredith. There were no supporters around, no TV cameras, no reporters. It was all over -- the election, his political career. Now he was just grandpa trying to make it a little better for someone who probably means as much to him as anyone on the planet.

The image was a metaphor for a difficult night for the former Republican mayor who was so sure he'd be elected to a third term when the evening began. Polling numbers had all shown him comfortably ahead of Democrat Ed Pawlowski. But Pawlowski jumped to an early lead and it kept building through the night.

Heydt's mood soured. He grumbled about Republican Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin, who was soundly trounced in her own re- election bid by former Bethlehem mayor Don Cunningham, a Democrat. Heydt would later call his defeat as a "Cunningham lever-pull kind of thing." He felt Ervin's 69.5 percent county tax hike in 2003 was coming back to haunt all Republicans running in the county.

Maybe. Maybe it was more of an anti-Republican mood nationally in light of President Bush's struggles with Iraq and other issues. And, maybe, voters remembered Heydt's stormy years and chose not to revisit them.

Success on election nights can be quickly gauged by candidate celebrations. About 150 supporters had jammed into the Shanty just before the polls closed, and then they drifted off fairly quickly as the outcome became obvious. Just a few blocks away at Main Gate, Democrats kept coming through the night to celebrate with Pawlowski and Cunningham.

The two candidates arrived at the bar on Liberty Street within a half-hour of each other, no doubt earlier than any had anticipated. Cunningham was first, ushered through a loudly cheering crowd of supporters wearing that huge, boy-next-door grin he has used in winning every election he has been in. He talked about being overwhelmed by the outcome -- winning in every district, almost 70 percent of the vote. Any concerns about his being identified more with Northampton County as Bethlehem's former mayor were long forgotten.

In January, he will be Lehigh County's executive, the first Democrat ever to be one. He admitted to reporters he wasn't sure what that will mean. But this wasn't the time or place to wonder. It's been a while since area Democrats had this big an election night.

Then, Pawlowski took the Main Gate stage -- absolutely overjoyed, holding a desktop nameplate aloft for all to see, even though nobody could very well. It said: "Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown." He said something about a friend giving it to him just before he came to Main Gate. Anyone standing more than 10 feet away didn't quite get it, but it didn't matter. They cheered wildly anyway. They tried to chant "Pawlowski, Pawlowski " but quickly switched to "Ed, Ed " because it worked a lot better.

"Thank you, Allentown!" he shouted. He shouted it with the incredulity of a man hoping no one would pinch him and wake him up. This was the first time he had ever run for anything, and he had defeated a former two-term mayor by a lopsided margin.

Close to midnight, Main Gate was rocking much as it does close to midnight on weekends. Political winners rejoice in large groups; political losers lament with a relative few -- at least, this time, a few blocks apart in west Allentown.

The sight of William Heydt outside the Shanty was perhaps the most memorable in a memorable evening. Here was a mayor who wore his ego on his sleeve. He said he thought he was done with the political stuff four years ago and only came back because he thought Allentown needed him.

"I wanted to come back and fix the city, again," he said after conceding. "Now I think we'd all better pray a little bit."

That's the mayor voters knew four years ago and didn't want back.

Grandpa Heydt at the end of the evening wasn't someone Allentonians saw very often. It may not have made any difference on this night, whether anyone did.

Still, because it reminded us that even the people whom we think we know through their fame have other sides to them -- it was nice to see.

Ted Williams is a senior Web producer at, where you can view his Blog, "A Moment with Ted Williams." He lives in Emmaus.

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