Supporters of President-elect Biden honked, yelled and waved a sign in celebration Saturday.
“I’m comfortable waiting for the courts,” a local top Republican said.
Moments after CNN and the Associated Press projected former Vice President Joe Biden to be the 46th President of the United States, newly-elected state Rep. Allison Tant said she breathed her first sigh of relief in four years.
“I’m just glad it’s over and we can move on and come together as a nation,” Tant said Saturday. “The nation needs to heal, especially with the holiday season coming on.”
She added that Biden has shown he can unite the country, which he demonstrated by choosing California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris clashed with him during the first Democratic primary debate.
“It shows how two people with different views can come together and move forward,” Tant said. “He’s going to show us how this country can move forward as one country, not two countries. People are tired of that.”
While local Democrats quickly embraced the news, Republicans were more reluctant to accept a Biden win.
“I’m comfortable waiting for the courts to do their job and get a certified result from the states,” said Evan Power, a political consultant and chair of the Leon County Republican Party. “We know things can change based on the changing counts on a day-to-day basis.”
Meanwhile, as the Trump campaign protested Biden’s victory claim and promised to battle the election results in court, about 100 Trump supporters took to the Florida Capitol as part of a national coordinated protest called “Stop the Steal.”
They stood outside near Monroe Street waving signs and flags, and chanting “Biden is a crook” and “Count every legal vote.” They cheered as trucks bearing Trump signs and American flags drove by honking in support.
Dan and Kerry Runyeon left their Ponce Inlet home in Volusia County at 5 a.m. to attend the rally.
They said they were motivated by what they were hearing going on elsewhere in the country by the Trump campaign: Poll watchers not being close enough to read ballots, truckloads of ballots being delivered in the dead of the night and poll workers leaving their desks to go home.
“It hasn’t been transparent,” Kerry Runyeon said. “If they were more transparent, we’d feel better about it.”
Both believe the election’s outcome is headed to court, adding that they would never accept Biden as their president.
By 2 p.m., several Biden supporters arrived, standing on street corners opposite the Trump advocates, waving hand-lettered posters and campaign signs. Some people drove by with Biden signs sticking out their windows.
“Multiple officials have said there is no evidence of voter fraud,” said Alyssa Hawthorne, a student at Florida State University.
Fellow FSU student Danny Murphy said he trusted the information at hand.
“You can tell from the data that it is a solid win for Biden,” he said. “It’s already decided and (these protests) are a desperate attempt by Trump to weaponize his supporters to … pull off another Bush v. Gore.”
Well over a hundred Trump supporters are outside the Capitol with signs and flags.
By Saturday morning, more votes had been counted for Biden in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Then CNN and AP called Pennsylvania, giving Biden 284 electoral votes, 14 more than the 270 required to capture the presidency.
But Bill Helmich, treasurer of the county GOP, said it ain’t over till it’s over.
“If we listened to who the news media said won, Al Gore would be president and Andrew Gillum would be (Florida) governor,” he said in a phone interview.
‘Help us work together’
Tant, the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, was just elected to the Florida House of Representatives. It gained more Republicans, however, and edged closer to a supermajority.
But Tant believes Biden’s win can help the Democrats and Republicans in the Florida Legislature “reach across the divide, and help us work together more than ever.”
As a strong advocate for people with disabilities, Tant said she personally plans to reach across the aisle to accomplish her goals for that population in Florida.
“I hope to work together to get things done,” Tant said.
She also said she believes Biden will be a strong president for Florida, despite current GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis being strongly aligned with Trump and defending his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
Tant’s husband, Barry Richard, was one of former President George W. Bush’s top lawyers in Florida during the 2000 recount.
“I don’t believe for a minute that Joe will only help the blue states,” Tant said. “He’s going to be a president for everybody — red, blue and independent, white, black and Hispanics, Catholics, Baptists like I am, Jewish like my husband, Muslim. None of that is going to matter.”
Loranne Ausley, a Democratic state representative who fought a hard battle to win election to the Florida Senate, echoed Tant’s sentiment.
“I am hoping we can focus on common ground and building bridges rather than tearing each other down,” Ausley said.
On the outcome of the election, she added: “Thanks, America, for hitting the reset button and restoring truth and decency and civility.”
Curtis Richardson, who was reelected to a third term on the Tallahassee City Commission, was watching the results at home with wife and Leon County Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson. He said he couldn’t have received any better news today.
“This is a new day. We’ve got experienced leadership to bring the country together at a time we need to be reunited,” said Richardson, a former state lawmaker. “I am looking forward to moving on and becoming the United States of America.”
He also said the election of Biden and Harris bodes well for Tallahassee, with several locals having close ties to the soon-to-be Biden White House.
Vincent Evans, Richardson’s former commission aide, went to work for recently reelected Democratic congressman Al Lawson. He later became a top advisor to the Biden campaign and subsequently was assigned to Harris.
Also, Ashley Williams-Green, daughter of local attorney Thornton Williams and wife Harriet Williams, was an aide to Jill Biden when her husband was vice president for Barack Obama. Williams-Green also worked on the Biden campaign.
Contact Jeff Schweers at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
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