It was a campaign that started even before Mayor Tom Menino announced he would not run for re-election. Three-term city councilor John Connolly had been poised with his vision to transform the Boston Public Schools. He campaigned on that platform beginning in February, but lost last night to Marty Walsh.

It was a campaign that brought together a huge swath of the city, from moms to ministers to …

"All those young professionals and the young artists and empty nesters and the seniors," Connolly said in his concession speech. "And I thank the people from every neighborhood who were out there. And I thank all of Boston’s incredibly, incredibly diverse communities for all you have done to support this effort. I appreciate everything.”

John Connolly ran on education reform. He argued that better schools reduce crime and retain Boston’s scarce young, middle-class families. He also advocated for more housing construction, private investment in transportation and public-private funding for business startups. At the outset of election night, spirits were high as the numbers rolled in.

Volunteer Tim Dolan pushed a stroller at the party with his two young sons. Parents and strollers became a visual symbol of Connolly’s campaign.

“He’s very committed to the city, he definitely is very into education, he’s been the education mayor as he proclaimed," Dolan said. "He’s got a lot of great attributes and I think he’d make a great mayor.”

But as numbers changed in Marty Walsh’s favor, the crowd grew a bit quieter. Beatrice Hollins of Roslindale said she remained optimistic.

“My spirits are still high," Hollins said. "I know I look down, but they’re still high. I had a great time volunteering. I closed the polls for the first time in my life, both times and all of that was exciting to me. I learned a lot and I got to meet a lot of friends.”

It was that kind of connection that many volunteers and staffers echoed. Connolly’s campaign seemed to unite people eager for lively, new conversations about education.

“He does not know the change that he has affected," said Caroline Foscato, another campaign volunteer. "I’ve never cared a lot about politics, I’ve never publicly supported a politician … And I’ve met multiple people on the campaign trail who’ve said the same thing. So he has affected change and I congratulated him on that. And I’ve connected with people in the city through his inspiration.”

Connolly had a similar message when he finally conceded.

“I am looking across at a room that looks like the entire city of Boston, this campaign looked like the entire city of Boston from day one and I’m so proud of that,” he said.

Connolly says Walsh has his “full support.” He added that with education as a priority, the city must believe that all residents “belong to each other.”