The grand ballroom of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel was packed with Turner supporters, disheartened at their candidate's huge loss, but also eager to see him. A few key aides slipped out to bring the former police chief down from his suite for the concession speech.
When he appeared out of the elevators, it was Lon Walls, his loyal press aide, who greeted him. The two men ambled slowly down the hallway, arm in arm. It was a moment of the kind of intimacy born of shared struggle, and with a warm, almost relieved peal of laughter, Turner cracked philosophically to Walls, "Life's a bitch and then you die.
"This isn't the end of Maurice Turner," he added quickly. "I'm not disheartened. Everything's all right. I'm fine."
Walls hugged his boss one more time, and then, surrounded by other campaign aides, friends and family members, they plunged into the roaring crowd in the ballroom. And indeed, in the brief concession speech that followed, there was a certain ebullience as Turner, the city's former police chief and a lifelong Democrat until he switched parties last year, talked about "a strong Republican ticket the next time around" and declared, "I assure you the next time there's going to be a different outcome."
There was thunderous applause.
"You're still the chief!" someone in the audience shouted.
"Life goes on," Turner told the crowd. "I'm extremely thankful for all you have done to help my candidacy. I think I'm a better person because of it. ... Life has peaks and life has valleys. So I'm not ashamed of the race we have run."
Listening along with the others was Walls, who said he thinks he too is a better person for the eight intense months he has spent at Turner's side. An expert in the Burmese martial art of bando, Walls, 40, declared last night, even as the overwhelming numbers against his candidate were jelling, "I am a samurai, and samurais do not give up even in the face of death!"
Walls -- twice the national light-heavyweight kick-boxing champion and currently president of the Capital Press Club -- brought his mother, Luna, from Toledo yesterday to view the disaster. "Interesting," is all Luna Walls would say as she sipped from a cup of water and surveyed the unusual scene in the ballroom: a melange of races and social classes with a large number of recently converted Republicans.
Walls himself is a lifelong Democrat, and never switched. So is his mom. But "what convinced me to work for Turner is the man himself," Walls said. "I liked his emphasis on law and order, his integrity. And for me the campaign was an opportunity to make a personal statement about Marion Barry and the mess that went on in the city."
In the alembic of the campaign, the two men have developed a strong friendship. "It's like a big brother-little brother situation," said Walls. "He gives me advice and I've grown a lot working with him and learning from his attitude toward life. Sometimes I'm kind of an uptight person and he's more relaxed. As a leader, you have to be more that way."
Of course, the intimacy included some moments of "cursing each other out, but then it was over and I learned not to bear any grudges or harbor any hard feelings."
But if Walls was ready to abandon his party affiliation for the man he thought was the best for the job, he was disappointed that so few other voters did the same. "It's the organization and unity of the Democratic machine that beat us," he said last night.
"The Associated Press has Dixon with 86 percent," said a radio reporter a little before 9 p.m., jamming a microphone in his face.
"Interesting," was all Walls could manage to reply, his eyes cast down.
"You don't think he was taken up by the Republican Party as a convenience?" demanded the reporter.
"No!" shot back the samurai, more than somewhat miffed, but containing himself. "You don't take on 9-to-1 odds as a convenience!" Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by that much in the city.
Before the chief's appearance in the ballroom, Walls huddled with other campaign officials, including Wally Ganzi Jr., owner of the Palm Restaurant and personal friend of President Bush, who served as Turner's finance chairman.
"They voted the party line," said Walls.
"Yeah, the straight party line," said Ganzi.
"They just didn't cross over," said Abigail Perlman, a Republican National Committee consultant for the campaign.
Ganzi, who just returned yesterday with President and Mrs. Bush from Houston, where they voted, said he thinks that Bush's veto of the civil rights bill was a key reason that the vote was so heavily against Turner. "Two weeks ago, before the civil rights thing," he said, "Turner was knocking at the back door of the city."
But Ganzi went on to say that he thinks Turner "is going to play a major role in the Republican Party." He said he talked with the Bushes on the flight home to Washington about the former police chief -- "what an excellent candidate he became, how he improved, and what an asset he will be if he chooses to remain and be a major Republican player."
James King, the Republican National Committee official brought in to manage Turner's campaign, said last night that he's not dejected, because "the future will show that Republicans will support black candidates just like the Democrats. It also is true that black candidates will play a major role in Republican politics in the future. The outreach will not stop with Maurice Turner."
As for Walls, being a samurai -- and "they never cry" -- means not missing a beat, or sulking over defeat. Instead, he will immediately begin looking around town for a public relations job. Since he has lots of friends in town, and was director of the news bureau at Children's Hospital before going to the Turner campaign, he thinks he'll be able to land another job soon. If not, "I can always go on unemployment."