Sonoma County celebrates as Joe Biden wins presidential race
Residents of deep-blue Sonoma County celebrated Saturday as Joe Biden embraced his victory over Donald Trump, setting the stage for the Democratic former vice president and U.S. senator from Delaware to become the country’s 46th president in January.
A small group of exuberant locals gathered midday in Old Courthouse Square, displaying victorious signs and drawing a chorus of car horn honks in appreciation. Later Saturday afternoon, a car parade celebrating Biden’s victory, organized by the Sonoma County Democratic Party and State Sen. Mike McGuire, was set to travel from the Office Depot parking lot on Santa Rosa Avenue to the Windsor Town Green starting around 3:30 p.m.
In Sonoma, about 200 people partied on the city’s historic plaza.
Biden’s election has been a long time coming for local Democrats and is a cause of "a lot of joy,“ said Pat Sabo, who chairs the Sonoma County Democratic Party.
“I’ve always understood and respected the word ’hope,’ but I don’t think it ever had truer meaning than it did today when the official announcement came across,“ Sabo said. ”It just opened up this idea of hope for moving forward in this country, and maybe beginning a process of having honest conversations and looking at where we have commonality instead of where we have differences.“
With about 226,000 ballots counted so far in Sonoma County, voters overwhelmingly demonstrated a preference for the ticket of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, with about 76% casting ballots for the former vice president. About 22% of local voters chose Trump and about 2% of voters opted for minor party candidates. Harris, one of California’s two U.S. senators and the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, will be the first woman to serve as vice president.
As a Black, biracial woman in Sonoma County, Amber Lucas sees Harris’ election as “an amazing accomplishment” and a moment that signals doors opening for other Black and biracial women.
“It feels surreal,” said Lucas, a local marketing manager, lifestyle blogger and activist who led local Black Lives Matter marches over the summer. “It feels like a win on so many levels to go from the administration that we’ve had for the last four years that has been so divisive within our country — and then to come to this. It means a lot.”
Sabo noted that it’s only been 100 years since American women first won the right to vote and that for her and millions more women, particularly women of color, Harris’ election marks an achievement that’s long been elusive. After Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Sabo said she questioned whether she’d ever see a woman achieve such a high level of political success.
“I hoped I would and we have,” Sabo said. “It almost defies appropriate words to best describe what one is feeling.”
The strong show of support in a county that reliably elects Democrats comes after a plurality opted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from Vermont, in the March primary election. Biden came in second then, receiving about 25% of votes compared to Sanders’ tally of roughly 33%.
Election returns had been trending Biden’s way in key states since Tuesday night, but it wasn’t until Saturday morning that major news outlets including the Associated Press, CNN and Fox News proclaimed that their analysis showed Trump had no path to victory. A private political projection firm, Decision Desk HQ, had called the election in Biden’s favor about 24 hours earlier.
Biden ran on the notion that he could unite a politically polarized nation and bring needed stability during the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to hit Americans hard across the country. Though occasionally prone to gaffes of his own, Biden will likely display a more traditional presidential persona — for Sabo, it means no longer having to wake up and worry about the rhetoric emanating from the White House.
“Just to have that is huge, that relief,” Sabo said.
Relief was also on the mind of Juan Mendoza of Santa Rosa, who came to the United States from Mexico about two decades ago and brought U.S., Mexican and pride flags to Old Courthouse Square on Saturday.
A floral designer in normal times, the pandemic has pushed Mendoza into gardening full time. He said he wasn’t sure that the Democrats would improve his situation, but Trump’s departure from the presidency was at least cause for optimism.
“It’s a lot more hopeful now,” Mendoza said.
The car parade from south Santa Rosa to Windsor attracted about 40 mask-wearing people in a couple dozen vehicles decked out with Biden-Harris memorabilia and American flags. McGuire hustled around the parking lot before attendees headed north, offering greetings and pro-Biden signs.
“Donald Trump has been on the exact opposite of everything that California has ever believed in,” McGuire said, pointing to immigration, climate change and a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. “And I think that is why people across this nation and right here in Sonoma County are taking to the streets to be able to celebrate today.”
One of the rally’s attendees was Valeria Savedra, whose sister works for McGuire. Underscoring the emotion of the election, Savedra said she had had to turn off the TV as the extended “Election Night” coverage dragged on.
“I want to cry,” she said. Asked what the election meant to her, she paused and said, “Hope for everyone.”
While Sonoma County is overwhelmingly blue, 1 in 5 local voters in Tuesday’s election — nearly 50,000 people — cast ballots for Trump.
Asked whether he had a message for his pro-Trump constituents, McGuire noted that he had close friends who voted for Trump.
“They are going through the same emotions that many of us went through four years ago,” McGuire said, expressing confidence that Biden will work to be representative of “everyone, no matter your race, your gender, or your party affiliation. And that is what we need right now. It’s time for healing.”
You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @wsreports.