With all precincts reporting, Margaret Abe-Koga sat on top with 26.5 percent of the vote, followed by Mayor Ronit Bryant with 22.5 percent and Vice Mayor Jac Siegel defending the last open seat with 20.7 percent.
Google software engineer Daniel Waylonis appeared to be the biggest threat to incumbents, taking 13 percent of the vote, followed by longtime resident Greg David with 10.4 percent and Google ad sales rep Aaron Jabbari with 6.7 percent.
Siegel said he was encouraged by a "solid 10-percent lead" incumbents held in early results posted at 8 p.m. The gap eventually closed to 8 percent.
"I predict that it will wind up this way," said Siegel, who gathered with supporters in a room at the back of Don Giovanni's restaurant. Council member Tom Means agreed. "It's no big surprise" that the incumbents will win, he said.
The three incumbents were ranked in the same order by voters in 2006.
The challengers "didn't have a comprehensive vision, and we already know what the incumbents are capable of," said downtown resident Hugh Donagher, who watched the results from Margaret Abe-Koga's gathering at the Tied House. The results are "as expected," he said.
Though they were trailing at the polls, the three challengers were in good spirits at a gathering at David's house, where he's fashioned a mini German beer garden in his front yard.
In numerous debates, David, Jabbari and Waylonis challenged the incumbents' decisions on the city's budget and union contracts, the Minton's housing project and what to do with the city's money-losing golf course. But all of the challengers are relative newcomers to the political scene and not one had served on a city commission, a common prerequisite to being elected a council member.
"We presented them with a really legitimate challenge," David said. "We got them to address issues they wouldn't have been comfortable talking about."
Waylonis said reading news about the city's budget problems was the reason he decided to run. Both he and David both called for the city to compensate its employees at the same level private industry does for similar jobs. Jabbari joined them in calling for privatization of the city's golf course, which lost $800,000 last year.