Tears, tension from North Bay Democratic convention attendees over Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton

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Tears welled in Deborah Burger’ eyes Monday night as she listened to Bernie Sanders tell her and the roaring crowd that packed the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia — including many of his most die-hard supporters — to back Hillary Clinton this November.

Burger, a Santa Rosa nurse and passionate Sanders supporter, described a feeling of heartbreak that it would be Clinton, the former New York senator and secretary of state, who would be the Democratic nominee for president, and not Sanders, the Vermont senator who challenged her throughout the primary season.

“It’s such a loss after you’ve emotionally invested so much of yourself,” said Burger, co-president of National Nurses United, a union representing 185,000 registered nurses, and who also served on the convention’s rules committee. “It takes time to come to grips with it. First there’s anger, then there’s denial, and then there’s acceptance and you can move on.”

Like Burger, thousands of Sonoma County residents are now faced with deciding whom to cast their vote for in November. Sanders, who defeated Clinton in Sonoma County during the June primary taking 52 percent of the vote to her 47 percent, joined a cadre of elected officials on stage calling for party unity to support the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. His speech Monday night sought to highlight common themes in both his and Clinton’s campaigns — what he called “racial, social and environmental justice.”

“This election is about and must be about the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and our grandchildren,” Sanders told the crowd.

And despite raucous protests that erupted on the streets of Philadelphia earlier in the day, and loud boos inside the convention hall following earlier revelations that top members of the Democratic National Committee interfered with the party’s nominating contest, elected officials representing Sonoma County interviewed by phone at the convention said Clinton had gained a wide share of Sanders’ supporters.

“Although she has been vilified and demonized by the Republican attack machine, the truth is she is extremely qualified to be president and she is speaking to the critical priorities we have as a nation,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. “For those diehard Sanders supporters who feel they need to be heard, I would urge them to consider the fact that they have been heard and they’ve made a huge positive difference in this race. They have helped produce the most progressive Democratic Party platform.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, sought to bolster another theme that emerged at the convention — defeating Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

“Her candidacy brings all Americans together,” Thompson said. “She is looking at creating opportunities for Americans, not dividing people and fanning their fears. She is the most qualified person to be president of the United States.”

Earlier Monday at a California delegation breakfast, Burger and North Bay delegates were in the crowd when boos and shouts overwhelmed speeches including mentions of Clinton and her vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. Numerous speakers, including Secretary of State Alex Padilla and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were drowned out by frustrated Sanders supporters.

“Count our vote! Count our vote!” some in the crowd yelled when Padilla sought to stress party unity and support for Clinton.

“Senator Sanders is a politician, so he’s going to do what he thinks is right, but many of his supporters have a different idea,” said Burger, adding that more than 100 Sanders delegates from across the country represented by the nurses union would cast their votes for him during the official nominating process today. “When you start a revolution, you as the leader of it don’t always have control over all aspects of it. The convention isn’t over yet.”

Notwithstanding the political uproar that overshadowed the first day of the convention Monday, Clinton backers said support for her on the convention floor was palpable.

“The energy is really strong with the Bernie supporters, and yes, there were some who tried to disrupt things, but there are still way more Hillary delegates here who outnumber Bernie’s quite a bit,” said Chris Snyder, assistant political director for the local Operating Engineers Local 3 and a Santa Rosa-based Clinton delegate.

“Hillary is going to get the nomination, and hopefully by the end, Bernie’s supporters will come together to help get her elected as president,” said Snyder. “We have far more in common and our differences are very small. It’s absolutely necessary, even if you don’t like Hillary, to come together to defeat Donald Trump.”

Staff Writer Guy Kovner and the Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 707-526-8503 or angela.hart@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ahartreports

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