A Democrat will retake the White House this January, thanks to the presumed victory of former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. The county’s political leaders have a lot of feelings about it.
Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings was one of them.
“I’m excited to see that it’s looking like Joe Biden’s going to win the election,” he says. “That is a huge relief, and I think it’s going to help our country heal. But the fact that it’s such a close race raises serious questions about how we got here and what’s next.”
Three days after the Nov. 3 election, Vox called the election for Biden this morning, due to gains the former vice president has made in the electoral college as vote-counting continues. Other outlets, like the New York Times and Associated Press, have yet to make the final call. The Associated Press reports Biden is winning 50.5% of the popular vote, according to current totals. He leads Trump by 2.7 percentage points in the popular vote. Biden has yet to announce victory.
Coco Raner-Walter, the chair of the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party, is assuming Biden will win, but she says it’s too early to know for sure.
“I am cautiously optimistic and jumping for joy,” she explains. “I am on the edge of both of those things. I am so excited and so proud of all of the work that we have been doing across the United States—with Stacey Abrams and with Fair Fight, all the work all over the place. To have the outcome we’re having, you have to celebrate. It was a long campaign. Covid threw a wrench in things. But it’s been scary and exciting all at once.”
Raner-Walter stresses that, although Biden currently leads in the results, ballots are still being counted. She also knows that President Trump has a litigious history and that he has shown an interest in trying to delegitimize election results.
Although Democrats don’t look poised to immediately secure a majority in the U.S. Senate, she believes Democrats did a good job in this year’s big Senate races, and she thinks Democrats need to continue chipping away at the seats where, in previous years, Democrats used to not bother competing. “We will work hard on these seats, and they will flip,” she says.
On top of that, each of the two races for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia appears headed for a runoff, and Raner-Walter expects phone-banking for those contests to start next week.
Santa Cruz County 3rd District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty says that he, like many Santa Cruz residents, was relieved by the presidential race. He admits to blowing through all of his kids’ Halloween candy while nervously awaiting the results.
Coonerty, whose district includes the city of Santa Cruz, believes that a Biden administration will be enormously helpful for local government and a strong partner, going forward—amid the trying times posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the deep recession that the public health crisis helped create. “Leaving each county to develop a response to a global pandemic and economic crisis was insanity,” he tells GT, via email.
“There are so many issues that the Biden administration will need to address, but I think he’s going to have a team of experienced, thoughtful people in his administration and partners at the state and local level,” he adds. “I’m hopeful we can finally stop lurching from crisis to crisis and do the work to improve regular peoples’ lives.”
In heavily Democratic Santa Cruz County, Biden is beating Trump by 60.8 percentage points, according to votes tallied so far. Biden currently has 79.1% of the vote locally. He improved Democratic presidential vote share among Santa Cruz County voters by 5.9 percentage points, compared to the results that previous Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got in 2016, according to the most recent returns.
Interestingly, Trump, who has 18.4% voter support in Santa Cruz County this year, also has improved his vote total since 2016, by a little more than a percentage point, according to the most recent results. That could change, given that late returns have increasingly favored more liberal candidates—a trend that may have accelerated this year, due to gaps in vote-by-mail preferences. The New York Times is forecasting that 94% of Santa Cruz County’s votes from this election have been tallied so far.
As for Santa Cruz County’s local races, District 1 supervisor candidate Manu Koenig gave a resounding defeat to Supervisor John Leopold, the longest-tenured member of the Board of Supervisors. At 35, Koenig will be the board’s youngest member, and this marks the first time in 10 years that a challenger has unseated an incumbent on the Board of Supervisors. In Watsonville, former Councilmember Jimmy Dutra won his election bid for the Watsonville City Council, and Councilmember Aurélio Gonzalez won his reelection bid.
In the Santa Cruz City Council race for four seats, things are looking a little bit closer right now. Sonja Brunner, Martine Watkins, Sandy Brown and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson are currently leading the way.
No matter the final outcome, Cummings says it will be important for members of the Santa Cruz City Council to continue working together. That’s the only way to make progress on the challenges ahead, he explains.
“This year we’ve done a good job of trying to work toward consensus this year,” says Cummings, whose one-year term as mayor wraps up next month. “We have continue to hear one another’s opinions and try to be respectful of others’ views.”
Check out all of our 2020 election coverage.