CHICAGO — When the first Obama supporters cleared the metal detectors at Grant Park at a little after 6 p.m. on election night, they burst into a run across the open grass, some elbowing each other to get as close to the stage as the barricades allowed.
Many thought this would be the biggest thing they saw in their lives.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told the 125,000 people in the park and tens of thousands more surrounding it when he took the stage about 11 p.m. local time.
He praised his opponent, Republican John McCain, saying “we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.” McCain and President Bush both called Obama to congratulate him.
Flanked by thick walls of bulletproof glass and surrounded by waving flags on an unseasonably warm night for Chicago, Obama thanked his wife, Michelle, whom he called “the love of my life,” and told his daughters Malia and Sasha, “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
Obama recalled Abraham Lincoln’s long ago words to a divided nation that “we are not enemies, but friends” and echoed Martin Luther King Jr., saying “we as a people will get there.” He also implored his doubters: “To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president, too.”
To the billions abroad, he offered this:
“To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores,” he said, “from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.” To America’s enemies, this: “To those who would tear this world down: We will defeat you.”
And to America’s allies, this:
“To those who seek peace and security, we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright, tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.”
Obama said he knew that his grandmother, who died a day earlier, was watching, and that he missed and owed an immeasurable debt to her and other family members now gone.
Civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson wept in the audience. Oprah Winfrey and the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am, who was behind the “Yes We Can” video for Obama, were among the celebrities in the crowd.
At 10 p.m. in Chicago, when the networks projected Obama as the winner, the crowd burst into cheers and tears, hugging and jumping amid chants of “Yes we can!”
Fresno City Councilmember Henry T. Perea saw his hopes of becoming the first Latino mayor of Fresno fade as businesswoman Ashley Swearengin — who had received backing from Assemblymember Juan Arámbula, D-Fresno, and outgoing mayor Alan Autry — became the second female mayor in city history.
Swearengin received 52,839 votes (55.04 percent) to Perea’s 42,974 (44.77 percent). The majority of Swearengin’s votes came from north of Shaw, which is the newer part of the city with higher-income residents. Perea’s strength came from south Fresno, where the majority of the city’s minority population lives.
Swearengin, in a recent radio interview with Autry, indicated she is open to working with Perea, who has two years left on the council. “At the end of the day, I think Henry Perea and I both want what is best for Fresno,” said Swearengin. “Henry has got my pledge today that I will work with him to make Fresno successful. And I think he will feel the same way. The city is too important to not let it happen.”
Perea — whose election night gathering at Palomino’s Restaurant in the Tower District got off to a gloomy start when Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea (the mayoral candidate’s father) announced early results showing Swearengin with 60 percent of the vote — told reporters he was happy with his campaign and the support that came from businesses, unions and law enforcement.
“I’ve had a tremendous amount of support,” said Perea. “You always find out in an election who your friends are, and I’m surrounded by a lot of them here tonight.”
Fresno school board
When former Fresno Teacher’s Association president Larry Moore takes his position on the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees, it will mark the first time in two decades will not have a Latino on a school board that oversees a district where 58.7 percent of its 73,782 students are Latino.
Incumbent Manuel Núñez, who was first elected in 1990, fell to Moore in a four-person race in the district that represents the Roosevelt High School area. Núñez, a retired educator from Fresno State University, had 22,047 votes (35.41 percent) to Moore’s 26,890 (43.19 percent). Núñez was not helped by the presence of two other Latinos (Esmeralda Díaz and Paul H. García) on the ballot.
Díaz (7,441 votes) and García (5,777 votes) took potential votes away from Núñez.
“I knew they would do it, but there was nothing I could do about it,” Núñez told The Fresno Bee.
Assembly District 30
Two years ago, retired CHP officer Danny Gilmore lost a close contest to Democratic incumbent Nicole M. Parra. Tuesday night, Gilmore kept former Shafter Mayor Fran Flórez from joining her son, state Sen. Dean Flórez, on the state Legislature.
Gilmore racked up a substantial advantage in Kings County (20,683 votes to 12,920) to hold off Flórez’s strength in Kern County (17,055 to 9,211) in posting a razor-thin win. Figures Wednesday morning showed Gilmore with 37,701 votes (51.7 percent) to Flórez’s 35,282 (48.3 percent). In remarks to The Bakersfield Californian, Gilmore said he would “work with people with D’s (Democrats) behind their names.”
“The issues are the same. We should all be working together to try to solve them,” he said.
Democrats and Republicans spent $5 million in the race. Parra endorsed Gilmore.
There were high hopes for a well-respected Latina to win the mayoral race in a city whose Latino population is more than 50 percent. But that did not happen.
Virginia Madueño only garnished 43 percent of the votes while incumbent Chris Crifasi won by 57 percent.
If Madueño would have been the winner, she would have become the first Latina Mayor in Riverbank.
Madueño, 42, a council member, vacated her council seat to run for mayor.
The City of Patterson chose to keep its current leader in office, Mayor Becky Campo who won the race with 53 percent of the votes. But it was a close call for candidate Luis Molina who lost by a mere 8 percent.
The race became tense just a few weeks ago when vandalism of campaign signs and personal attacks came afloat, thus dividing the Latino community.
Even the Latino Community Roundtable canceled a candidate forum because the organization said it had become too negative and did not want to be a part of it.
Measure S road tax, which asked for a half-cent sales tax increase to raise $700 million over 20 years to fix potholes, widen roads and loosen traffic snarls, is still up in the air. Though it is in the lead by 65 percent of the votes, there are still thousands of unprocessed ballots yet to count.
Yosemite Community College District, Area 5
Incumbent Linda Flores kept her seat as one of three board members with 25 percent of the votes. The other two are Tom Hallinan with 27 percent and Paul Neumann with 21 percent.
Waterford City Council
José Aldaco took a spot in one of the two seats on the city council. Aldaco won 42% of the votes, while Michael Van Winkle took the second spot with 34% of the votes.
None of the eight Latino candidates who ran in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties managed to get the victory.
In Sacramento County, Dina Padilla lost her bid for the state Assembly District 3 where Republican incumbent Dan Lungren easily won.
The other position where a Latino was participating was state Assembly District 1 where Anselmo Chávez lost to incumbent Dave Cox.
In Yolo County, three Latinos running for Woodland City Council — Óscar Villegas, Salina Valencia and Yolanda Villanueva — failed in their bid to defeat William ‘Bill’ Kristoff who won with the 35.1 per cent of the vote.
Villegas got 31.4 per cent; Valencia 21 per cent; and Villanueva 12.5 per cent.
In Placer County, Karen Martínez lost her bid in the state Assembly District 5. Niel Roger got 71.6 percent of the vote to win.
In Roseville there were six candidates, two of them Latinos, running for the city council.
Carol García and René Aguilera were unable to beat their opponents. The winner was Pauline Roccucci, who won 23.49 per cent of the vote. García had 21.49 per cent, and Aguilera had 13.12 per cent.
For the position of Mayor of Sacramento County, the candidate Kevin Johnson won the election with the 57.50 per cent of the votes, beating his opponent, incumbent Heather Fargo who got 41.99 per cent of the vote.
Latino voters were courted heavily by supports and opponents of two key propositions: Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriages; and Proposition 4, which would force young girls seeking an abortion to notify their parents.
The latest results show Proposition 8 winning, but opponents announced today they will wait until millions of absentee votes are counted before admitting defeat.
Proposition 4 was being defeated.