A deflated Te Ururoa Flavell wiped away the tears streaming down his face and told his whanau and supporters "I'm coming home".
The tears weren't for himself, but for what he described as the dilemma that was now before Maori by not having an independent voice around the Government table.
It is likely there will be a National, New Zealand First and Act coalition - which has been described as a "travesty" for Maori.
Labour has won all seven Maori seats, including Waiariki, and in the process has spelled the end of the Maori Party in Government.
Flavell has won Waiariki for the past three elections, has been the party's co-leader since 2013 and Maori Development Minister since 2014.
At Flavell's supporters' party on Saturday night at Waiteti Marae, some of the 250 people there were crying or holding their heads in their hands as Flavell walked through the crowd flanked by his wife, Erana, and his children.
"I feel heavy at heart but the people have spoken, even in Waiariki they have spoken and I can't get away from that.
"I don't want to hear people talk about tino rangatiratanga [sovereignty] and mana motuhake [right of self-governance] because we had it and now it's gone.
"When you wake up there are likely to be seven seats back in the hands of Labour who are likely to be in opposition. So don't tangi [cry] back to me."
He told the Rotorua Daily Post afterwards he was hoping to spend another three years to finish off some projects.
"But it's not going to happen. I will spend time with my family at long last, after 12 years it's been a long time. I'm pleased in one sense but I'm sad ... We have lost all the seats and Labour isn't part of a Government ... [Maori] will say 'what the hang has happened?' And I'll say 'you spoke, you gave it, that's how it is'."
Before the results started to roll in on Saturday night, Flavell was buoyant and confident, mixing with his supporters and in true Flavell fashion joined the kitchen's working chain handing out the meals to the guests.
Polling had suggested he was 20 per cent ahead of Coffey but that polling had underestimated the "Jacinda effect", which Flavell said was what worked for Coffey.
Flavell said he wouldn't put up his hand again but he hoped to remain working for the party, in whatever form that might be.
"The survival of the Maori Party rested with me and we didn't get it over the line for all sorts of reasons and I'm not going to go into that now. I can't make excuses, we did everything we could. The people have spoken, it's as simple as that, they don't want this independent voice clearly, so they've got to put up with whoever they get."
Flavell said Maori had tried everything to have a political voice.
"From signing a Treaty, to signing the Declaration of Independence, through to open warfare, through to Parihaka, to peaceful resistance, to duplicating other systems like a Maori parliament, through to, hell all sorts of things, petitions, live ins, occupations, trying to chop down a flag pole, every sort of vehicle and the Maori Party was the vehicle sitting in front of us for 12 years. We've worked really hard and obviously everybody gave up on us and that's disappointing because we'd done so much for our people in that time."
When asked if their relationship with National hurt them, he said people say that but his party had been able to achieve much more than anyone else because of that relationship.
"Whanau Ora is sitting there now? What's going to happen to that? I don't know. That's the disappointment and yet we know that we have been able to do huge gains. So as I say I can put my hand on my chest and say hell we worked hard. I'm proud of what we have done."
Former Maori Party president Pem Bird said despite feeling "distraught and disillusioned" he urged the party to come back stronger than ever in three years' time.
"Te Ururoa you have made sacrifices, time with your whanau, but you've never sacrificed your principles."
Maori Party Waiariki co-chairman Te Taru White said the result was a "travesty" for Maori.
"None of the Maori members will have a say other than the Maori [Winston Peters] who wants to repeal the Maori voice. It's a travesty.
"The people voted for change but I don't think they realise what change will be. In the process [of voting Labour] they have taken out the Maori Party, the only Maori voice in there."
Mr White said he believed the Maori Party had not been able to resonate with the younger voters, which he said was sad.
"That's difficult to swallow. Our motto 'mana Maori motuhake' is about doing it for ourselves and taking hold of our own destiny."
He said it was sad to lose Flavell.
"He is a hard worker and he is honest."
Tamati Coffey (Labour): 9847
Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori Party) 8526
Votes counted: 18,815