Mike Shepherd, addressing supporters mintues before the early returns came in.

Mike Shepherd, addressing supporters mintues before the early returns came in.

You could feel the oxygen get sucked out of the room when Mike Shepherd and about 30 supporters got the news just after 8:15 p.m. at Mad Moose Pizza.

“It’ll be alright,” he told the crowd as they noshed on pizza and sipped Moose Drool.

Shepherd, a city councilman who led the yard sign poll months before the other four candidates for mayor of Bremerton even entered the race, pulled in 23.98 percent of the votes in early returns tonight, enough to rank him third behind former Kitsap County commisioner Patty Lent, with 27.74 percent, and city councilman Will Maupin, with 28.57 pecent of the votes. Non-profit executive Daryl Daugs brought in 8 percent of the early votes, while local business owner Carlos Jara brought nearly 11 percent.

Though results in the close race will continue to be released later this week, “To me, it’s a victory,” Lent said in call from Brother Don’s, where she celebrated with friends and supporters. “From what the statistics are right now, I’m very confident.”

Lent says she plans to start doorbelling again on Wednesday. “If Will’s having a tough time making decisions on the budget, I want to see areas I can help improve that,” she said in reference to comments Maupin made at a budget meeting last month. “That’s a very important factor and we both need to be on top of our game.”

Maupin — who celebrated at home with his family and about 30 supporters — said he wasn’t surprised by tonight’s results and doesn’t expect them to change. “My real gut feeling ahead of time was that it was going to come out just the way it did,” he said in a call earlier tonight. Maupin said he plans to take a little bit of time off before getting his committe together and mapping out a strategy.

Shepherd, meanwhile, is not ready to give up hope.

“It’s amazing that it’s this close,” he said at Mad Moose. “100 votes might (make) the winner.”

Jara and Daugs have not yet returned calls for comment.

— Chris Kornelis

Note: During the primary campaign, Bremelog.com has focused its coverage on the mayor’s race. Look for coverage on the other races affecting Bremeton voters between now and November’s general election.