When walked into his Trapelo Road headquarters a little after 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, the many supporters crowded into the room didn’t know what to think.
Campaign Manager Kate Foster and Election Day Coordinator Ellen Schreiber, who had been taking results from the four communities – Belmont, Watertown and parts of Cambridge and three Boston neighborhoods – since the polls closed, said they didn’t have all the numbers.
And Brownsberger, although elegantly dressed and standing with perfect posture, looked exhausted from the short and intense campaign to fill the state senate seat in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District, previously held by Steve Tolman.
But, upon closer inspection, you could see a slight grin and twinkle in Brownsberger’s eyes.
“I think the indications are that we won!” he said to huge applause and laughter.
“Bravo!” yelled one supporter.
“If there’s a Will, there’s a way,” shouted another.
Brownsberger won by carrying his home town by historic margins. About three in ten registered voters – 4,850 of 16,687 – cast ballots according to the Belmont Town Clerk's Office and the vast majority of those, more than two-thirds – 3,304 – were for Brownsberger.
District wide, Brownsberger's advantage in Belmont allowed him to defeat his nearest rival, Watertown's State Rep. Jonathan Hecht by about 1,000 votes, in what turned out to be a close race that included former state fire fighters union leader Robert McCarthy from Watertown and Brighton attorney Timothy Schofield.
Unofficially, Brownsberger picked up 4,958 to Hecht's 3,849 while McCarthy took 3,436 and Schofield came home with 2,887.
After being guided to a corner for a photo, Brownsberger described his final minutes of the evening before learning that he won the special state senate election to succeed Steven Tolman as the Second Suffolk and Middlesex State Senator.
“I lost my phone,” he said. I was sitting out there in the car and no one was calling me and I was saying: ‘What’s going on? It must mean it’s close.’”
Once he went home and retrieved his phone, Brownsberger said he received a call from Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray, congratulating him.
He said others told him that he deserved the victory but Brownsberger said he does not see life that way.
“This is not school … you always don’t get what you deserve,” he pointed out.
However, Brownsberger said he feels very fortunate.
At times like this, he said, many politicians say to voters: “This is your victory.”
In his assessment, Brownsberger said he feels it is both his and the supporters’ victory.
“You’ve given me something huge and with that comes a staggering obligation and debt,” he said. “You’ve given me this victory and I must deliver the results. It’s a heavy burden but one I accept with a lot of joy.”
It was a labor of love to work for Brownsberger, said many of his supporters in the hour before their candidate arrived for the victory celebration.
Belmont-bred Foster, a veteran and current participant in many political campaigns, said she got to know Brownsberger when she was working for another candidate’s race and saw him at events.
She introduced herself to her state representative and became enthusiastic about Brownsberger’s ability to represent his constituents immediately.
“He has a very strong base,” Foster said of the people who support and helped Brownsberger in this race.
“Will has an amazing grass roots organization going on and so many people are eager to work for him and I’ve never seen that in a campaign before.”
Schreiber agreed and added that people begged to work for Brownsberger.
“We had 200 volunteers working today,” she said. “They were holding signs, making calls, scanning data, driving people to the polls and bringing food to volunteers.”
It seems everyone who has a relationship with Brownsberger wants to work for him, Schreiber and Foster said.