John Palino was known to a few fine-dining friends and late-night television junkies before he launched his campaign to be Auckland's Mayor.
After five months of campaigning, the New Jersey-born Aucklander held back tears as he thanked supporters for almost 100,000 votes.
He initially called the tally "disappointing" but the restaurateur, 53, and his fiancee, Rose Li, were in no mood to sulk. They plan to get married next year and hope to have a baby soon after.
"Nothing keeps me down," Palino said, before promising to have another shot at the job in 2016. "It starts now." Li said since Palino announced his bid in the Herald on Sunday on May 5, he hadn't rested a day. "It has been an amazing journey for us. I met so many people I would have never met."
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Palino thanked Li, and said she would make a spectacular mayoress.
Palino's first phone call after the result was to Len Brown. He congratulated him in a voicemail message and wished him well.
Palino, the youngest of four children, also fielded a special call. His oldest brother, Frank, called from the States to say how proud the New Jersey family was of him.
Palino built a successful career in restaurants after arriving from New York in 1996. In politics, he was a rookie. He first expected his campaign to cost up to a million dollars. In the end, he says, he spent about $120,000 of his own cash on the campaign. Supporters donated $150,000. Palino said his team couldn't buy all the advertising they wanted.
Palino expected more support from the centre-right establishment in future. "Next time they'll believe that I can actually nail this and the money will come in and we'll be able to buy that advertising."
Another defeated candidate, Reverend Uesifili UNasa, thanked his own team for raising issues including "a living wage for low income workers" and an "ethnically inclusive" council culture.