Darrel Drown laughed heartily.
What rank, he had just been asked, did he attain in the Boy Scouts?
Sheepishly, the Republican County Council member-elect from the 2nd District admitted he was a Scout for 15 minutes. Since then, however, he has been making up for lost time.
When celebrating his stunning election victory over incumbent Angela Beltram last week, Drown showed that he was both prepared for his 2,000-vote win and loyal to the people he credits with making it possible.
"When you have bright candidates who like each other, and run as a team, it can do a heckuva lot for you," said Drown, who four years ago lost to Beltram by 822 votes. "Up and down the ticket, credible candidates pushed everyone up."
Drown says his showing -- the best by 1,200 votes of any council candidate and a full 2,000 votes ahead of any Democratic winner -- was boosted by Republican state Sen.-elect Chris McCabe and GOP County Executive-elect Charles Ecker. Drown had 7,890 votes to McCabe's 7,918 and Ecker's 7,968.
"When you win straight up and down, that means so, so much," Drown said.
The major difference between this time and 1986, Drown said, is that he had "a structure that was really efficient" led by a "great campaign manager" who "in an instant could get 30 people together to do a lit (literature) drop. I value having a creative corps of volunteers."
If Ecker was in some way responsible for Drown's victory by leading the ticket, then Drown was just as surely partly responsible for Ecker's. It was he who, having worked under retired deputy school superintendent Ecker as a budget officer, first brought Ecker to the attention of the party as a potential candidate.
As a council member, Drown would not be able to continue serving as the Board of Education budget officer and will take a $40,000 pay cut when he resigns his school post at the end of this fiscal year.
Drown says, however, he has become a certified financial planner and that an unnamed firm has been thinking about hiring him.
Beltram, who lives in a district with only three Democratic-majority precincts and 12 with Republican majorities, says she didn't take her incumbency for granted. She said she told her supporters in advance that, "if we didn't get my people out to vote, we lost."
Beltram bettered her 1986 totals by 582 votes, but it was far from enough. "Republicans got Republicans out to vote and to vote Republican," she said. "People voting a straight party ticket is quite unusual for a local election."
Beltram also said there was not a lot of press coverage of the differences between her and Drown and that people didn't get interested in the election until the last two weeks.
An election with such "bizarre" results doesn't leave her feeling "personally rejected," Beltram said. "In 25 years of politics, I've lost a couple of times before. It's not new to me."
Drown used Columbia-based pollster Brad Coker to help plan strategy. He said Coker told him the weekend before the election that he was three points behind. But 15 percent were still undecided. Cokes suggested he keep on doing what he was doing, and he would win.
"He was right on the money," Drown said. "Did you know he predicted Chuck Ecker would win by 300 votes?" (Ecker won by 244 prior to the counting of absentee ballots. Including absentees, he won by 450 votes.) Drown credits fellow Republican council candidate Dennis Schrader with helping Ecker do well in the 1st District. The district precincts are all Democratic, but Ecker ran almost even with Bobo, losing by 179 votes.
Schrader fared almost as well, splitting precincts evenly with incumbent council chairman Shane Pendergrass while losing by 102 votes. "Dennis ran a very good campaign," Pendergrass said, adding that Schrader worked hard.
On election night, Pendergrass told supporters, "In any other election, people would have said I won a very close race. Tonight, it was a landslide."
Pendergrass said that while she did not find her primary race "very positive for me, it did provide a dry run showing us where we needed to be more organized, where we needed to plug the holes."
She said she was forced because of her responsibilities as chairman of the council to leave the running of her campaign to her supporters. "They did it all, and they did one of everything," she said. "Commercials, door knockers, phone banks. . . ."
Schrader said he had "a tough time in Owen Brown, but did very, very well every place else. It was a moral victory."
"Truthfully, I'm happier that Chuck (Ecker) won rather than the other way around," he said. "It sets the tone that we're moving in a new direction.
"I ran a hard race. I knew it was uphill, but I am exhilarated by the experience and the fact that the party did so well. I'll take a couple of weeks and think about the future. Politics is in my blood. I'll be running again."