In Tuesday's returns, McLaughlin was leading Corker -- a former council member -- 8,945 votes to 5,322 (or 63 percent to 37 percent).
"I voted for Corker because it was a name I recognized. I honestly did not prepare very well," said Steve Adams, who notes I-912 was the sole reason he came to vote Tuesday.
Voter Donajeane Bogart also recognized Corker's name on the ballot. And?
"I voted for McLaughlin. He'd had his chance before, and I thought it was time for her to have a chance."
Tuesday night, McLaughlin said the margin of victory came as a shock. "I expected it to be a lot closer. Obviously Steve has huge name recognition and years of public service. I am overwhelmed."
Corker stopped by his opponent's campaign gathering spot, Round Table Pizza, Tuesday night and conceded, McLaughlin says.
For voters, conservative religious views espoused by McLaughlin (she has said she will attempt to repeal the city's domestic-partner benefits ordinance), "didn't enter into it at all," Bogart said.
Other voters polled by The Inlander said they had formed little impression of either candidate and were drawn to the polls by various statewide initiatives.
The winner fills the seat being vacated by populist councilwoman Cherie Rodgers. Both candidates have extensive grass-roots involvement in city politics through schools, boards, commissions or neighborhood councils.
In a striking vote of confidence, major players around the city have donated heavily to McLaughlin's first try at elected office. She has raised nearly four times as much money as Corker, who has run for local offices several times, winning only a 1999-2003 term on the City Council.
The broad base of financial support and McLaughlin's apparent willingness to dive into a full array of city issues may have eased concerns about her position on the Christian right.