I want to start by saying thank you—for being here, for your dedication, and for your unwavering commitment to this campaign. It has been the honor of my lifetime that this beautiful town—one I’ve been proud to call home for forty-three years—would even consider me as mayor. Unfortunately, our movement has fallen short; the time has come for me to honor the democratic process and concede this race to our incumbent, Rusty the French Bulldog.

Of course, our fine town is not the only place to have a non-human mayor. Idyllwild, California; Cormorant, Minnesota; and Georgetown, Colorado, join us in this tradition that could be described as “incredibly cute,” “what we need right now,” or “insulting to the people who dedicate their lives to public service.” It depends on who you’re asking.

But when I began this campaign, I asked you, the people of Riverside, if you wanted the mayor to be an experienced leader and five-term town council member or continue to be a dog who wears a bowler hat and a bowtie.

You chose the dog who wears a bowler hat and a bowtie. In a landslide.

I just got off the phone with Rusty’s campaign team to congratulate him. Well, not his team. I just got off the phone with his owner, a woman named Betty. I offered to work with Rusty for the betterment of our town. She asked me if I was “doing okay” twelve times.

I’m more than okay. I feel immense gratitude for this campaign. And regret. And confusion. And a deep, deep well of anger. But mainly, it’s gratitude.

It was a profound privilege to hear your stories. Your struggles. Your dreams. I consistently heard that you were ready for change, and I laid out a detailed plan to make that change happen. But Rusty started occasionally wearing a tiny fedora, and I guess that was good enough for you.

Donna, Bill, Jeffrey, and Phillip: you were the best staff a candidate could ask for. Thank you. You called every phone line. You knocked on every door. You dedicated a year of your lives to this. Together, we built a lean machine that I refinanced my mortgage to fund. But we just couldn’t best Rusty’s campaign operation, which was mainly a Facebook page that Betty hasn’t updated since 2017.

Thank you to my son, Dylan. He just turned two years old, but he was at every single campaign stop, stump speech, and interview. Not that it helped. If only he were even just a little bit cuter than Rusty.

Most of all, thank you to my wife for standing by me. Metaphorically, of course. She is not behind me on this stage right now, and based on how many times she’s said “You were humiliated BY A DOG” to me tonight, she won’t be seen with me in public for a while.

In hindsight, we were overly optimistic that the mayoral debate would be a turning point. We were excited to talk directly to voters and confront Rusty about the distinct lack of progress he has made in the past four years. But it was impossible for the audience to hear our plan to streamline garbage pickup over Rusty’s constant agitated barking. I realize now my mistake was saying the words “food,” “outside,” and “squirrel” in rapid succession. I own that.

And based on how much he was wagging his tail and drooling, Rusty clearly misunderstood my demands for answers about the wastewater treatment plant.

I’m immensely proud that we got our message out, despite being overshadowed by hours of free media attention lavished on “the nation’s most adorable mayor.” Puff piece after puff piece featured no mention of any substantive policy positions. Reporters only asked Rusty softball questions like “Who’s a good boy?” but this campaign was brave enough to ask “Who is this good boy?” and “Is this boy, in fact, good?”

It’s clear my promises of increased funding to our beleaguered community center could not compete with “such a dapper lil good boy,” even though said boy consistently appears at public events in his official capacity as mayor with a massive erection and a droopy ball sack.

Meanwhile, I present my bare ass to one small business owner during a photo op, and suddenly that’s disqualifying.

Honestly, I thought the revelation that Rusty humped countless other dogs and human legs would bring him down. A sex scandal! An October surprise! Yet the only follow-up questions from voters were “Are there puppies?” and “Can I see the puppies?”

So, congratulations to Rusty the French Bulldog on winning his third consecutive term. But I’m not saying goodbye. We have more work to do. Together. Specifically, the work of cleaning up Rusty’s poop, because it’s absolutely everywhere.