“I love all you guys!” LSA senior Yousef Rabhi shouted to a crowd of about 35 supporters gathered at his election watch party at Tio’s Mexican Café on East Liberty Street last night.

Rabhi had reason to spread the love — his watch party had just become a victory party.

After months of campaigning through door-to-door canvassing, the 22-year-old Democrat won the majority of the vote to land on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. As of 5 a.m. this morning, Rabhi led with 74 percent of the vote, while his opponent Republican Joe Baublis received 25 percent.

Last night’s elections also saw the re-election of Mayor John Hieftje (D) and Ann Arbor City council member Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5). Hieftje — who’s served as mayor since 2000 — triumphed over Independent candidate Steve Bean with 82 percent of the vote, while Hohnke beat Republican challenger John Floyd and party-unaffiliated University graduate student Newcombe Clark with about 70 percent of the vote, according to the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office as of 5 a.m. this morning.

The fact that both Rabhi and Hieftje won by substantial margins didn’t go unacknowledged at their victory parties.

“I was out canvassing today, but to be frank, the mayor didn’t need that much help,” Public Policy senior Tommy Held said at Hieftje’s post-election party at the Arbor Brewing Company on East Washington Street.

Meanwhile, at Tio’s, several dozen of Rabhi’s supporters began celebrating his victory hours before the polls closed — and even before Rabhi had shown up.

As Rabhi’s supporter and close friend Celia Haven put it at around 9:20 p.m., “We have the numbers, and it’s looking good.”

The pre-victory revelry stood in stark contrast to the Aug. 3 primary, when Rabhi won the Democratic ticket by a mere two votes.

“(The primary) was very chaotic. This is going a lot better,” Haven said.

Rabhi’s campaign manager Christine Muscat added, “It is looking a little better this time.”

At around 9:30 p.m. a tired-looking Rabhi walked into the restaurant and was greeted with resounding applause, to which he smiled broadly.

Among his enthusiastic supporters was current City Council member Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3), who said he has confidence in Rabhi’s political poise despite his young age.

“He’s no longer a novice. He’s definitely a pro,” Kunselman said in an interview last night. “This is a great victory for Ann Arbor.”

Another Rabhi supporter, University employee Tim Colenback, said he hopes Rabhi’s win will help set a precedent of local political activism among University students.

“I think we need student participation in local government,” said Colenback, who works as an assistant dean of student services for the University’s School of Social Work. “Being involved really does make a difference.”

Colenback added that Rabhi’s win will likely inspire students to become more politically active — even if that means just getting out to vote.

Referring to Rabhi’s primary win, Colenback said, “When an election comes down to one or two votes, everybody who’s involved will make a difference.”

In an interview after his victory party, Rabhi said he appreciates the outpouring of support from respected officials like Kunselman and Colenback.

“I appreciate their help and support,” Rabhi said. “Those kind of things help a lot.”

Despite feeling enthused by his win, Rabhi said campaigning has taken a toll on other aspects of his life.

“Now I’ll actually start doing homework and doing my reading for classes,” said Rabhi, who plans to graduate at the end of this semester. “Then I’ll start looking for a part-time job.”

Following his win last night, Hieftje said he’s also looking forward to the future.

“We’ve stood up to the challenges so far, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hieftje said in an interview last night.

Despite his substantial lead, Hieftje said he didn’t view his win as a foregone conclusion.

“I never take elections for granted at all,” Hieftje said.

–Aditya Badrinath contributed to this report.

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