’We are going to save democracy’: Calif. Gov. Newsom, local officials rally for Biden in Doylestown

More than 200 people attending the rally in Doylestown were met with dozens of Trump supporters waving flags outside.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday joined local Democrats in Doylestown to endorse President Joe Biden and tout the importance of Bucks County in the presidential elections.

“We are going to save democracy and bring back Biden and Harris for four more years,” Newsom told a cheering crowd of more than 200.

Newsom’s emphatic support for President Joe Biden comes amid concerns about his age and cognitive ability and calls for him to step aside following his performance at the presidential debate on June 27 against Republican challenger Donald Trump.

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“I don’t turn my back on people that have had the back of the American people, one of our great American comeback stories,” Newsom said following the rally. “And so I really believe in the president, I believe in his character, I believe in his competency, his capacity.”

Newsom said he would not consider running for the nomination if Biden stepped aside and Democrats held an open convention in August.

“It’s the hypothetical that gets in the way of progress in terms of promoting this candidacy,” he said. “It’s exactly where the other party wants us to be, is having this internal fight, and I think it’s extraordinarily unhelpful.”

Ashley Ehasz, the Democratic candidate for Pa.’s first congressional district, state Sens. Steve Santarsiero and Sharif Street, state Rep. Tim Brennan, Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia and other local Democratic officials spoke at the rally, stressing the importance of the county in national races.

“The people here have the power to send a clear message to Donald Trump: Hands off our democracy,” Brennan said. “We have four months, four months to tell our neighbors and friends what’s at stake in this election because the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

For Karin Alexanderson, a Doylestown resident who attended the rally, the emphasis on Biden’s performance during the debate is misplaced.

“I’m increasingly frustrated by this dissonance between the president is old and we’ve always known that, and there’s some really bad structural and policy and process stuff happening on the Republican side that isn’t getting the weight that it should,” Alexanderson said.

She hopes Democrats focus their campaign beyond swing counties like Bucks to generate support for Biden.

“When you compare what’s going on in our country with movements in history towards authoritarianism, this election is coming down to two old guys, one who is going to be a dictator starting on day one, and one who’s had an incredibly successful three-and-a-half years of presidency already,” she said.

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Gabriela Harris, of Northampton Township, agreed.

“This election is about character and our Constitution,” she said. “I would vote for Biden even if he was in a coma. So we need to show up. There is no question. Both are old, but one is a convicted felon and a liar and a psycho, and the other one is an old man who has been doing really well for our country.”

Ahead of the speech, rally-goers were met outside the venue by dozens of former President Donald Trump’s supporters waving flags and hoisting signs in support of the Republican candidate.

Lisa Leedom and James R. Leedom, Levittown residents, said they support Trump and want to see him limit government overreach and lower taxes.

James Leedom said he wants to see Trump support an effort to restart the Keystone XL Pipeline Project to lower gas prices and reduce inflation.

“People can’t afford to eat. They can’t afford to do anything,” he said.

Ed Sheppard, chair of communications for the Doylestown Republican Committee, said the counter-rally “grew organically” once Trump’s supporters heard about the Democratic rally.

Sheppard said local Republicans are hoping to make a difference nationally with the local elections in Bucks County and Pennsylvania.

Republicans counter rally Doylestown
Ed Sheppard, chair of communications for the Doylestown Republican Committee, said the Trump rally “grew organically” after they heard Gov. Newsom was visiting Bucks County. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

“Pennsylvania’s going to decide the White House, the Senate and the House, and Bucks County is going to decide Pennsylvania,” he said, highlighting the House race between incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic challenger Ashley Ehasz as well as the U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Dave McCormick and incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, in addition to the presidential match between Biden and Trump.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the entire ticket,” Sheppard said. “People are fed up with Democratic policies, and after that debate a lot of independents feel lied to by Democrats about the state of their president, so they’re really gravitating towards us who are being honest about our state of minds.”

If there’s a point of consensus on both sides, it’s that Bucks County voters will play a decisive role in November’s elections. Philly’s collar counties are crucial to win Pennsylvania, a historic swing state, and Bucks County has been a particularly close race in past elections. In 2020, Biden won the county with 51.7% of the vote to Trump’s 47.3%. The 2016 presidential election was even closer: Hillary Clinton barely edged out Trump with 48.4% of the vote compared to 47.8% of the vote for Trump.

“We need to buck up, Bucks County,” Newsom told the crowd. The governor said that it was a “choice election” between “daylight and darkness.”

“If Donald Trump succeeds, God help us, we will roll back the last half century,” he said. “It’s America in reverse. They want to bring us back to a pre-1960s world and you are the front lines of that opposition. You are the folks that can make sure that does not happen. Voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, not just access to abortion, access to contraception, all of those things are on the ballot, Bucks County, and we are counting on you. America’s counting on you.”

WHYY News reporter Carmen Russell-Sluchansky contributed reporting. 

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