The announcement came Saturday morning: Joe Biden, having amassed more than 270 electoral votes, was projected the winner of the presidential race against incumbent President Donald Trump. After a grueling campaign season, marred by a pandemic and made even more stressful by days spent waiting for votes to be counted in several battleground states, Kansas City voters who spoke with The Beacon said they felt a variety of emotions.
In a repeat of 2016, both Kansas and Missouri went for Trump, winning 56% of voters in Kansas and nearly 57% of Missouri voters.
David Jones, 55, of Kansas City, Missouri, heard the news while washing dishes. He heard rumors that a Biden win was coming, but didn’t fully believe it until he saw Saturday’s news. Looking ahead, Jones said he hopes that, under a Biden administration, people’s grievances and concerns can be heard regardless of their political beliefs.
“Hopefully enough people in the incoming administration, and in the public, and in governance will realize, ‘Hey, these people that we didn’t pay attention to before, we kind of need to now because we’re representing the whole country,’” he said.
News of Biden’s win drew Kansas City residents to gather in celebration at Mill Creek Park near the Country Club Plaza — the same site of Black Lives Matter protests against police violence just five months earlier.
Though the Democratic Party succeeded in winning back the White House, a “blue wave” did not wash over Kansas nor Missouri on Election Day. Republicans up and down the ballot won their races at the state and local level — from Trump handily winning both states to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson winning his re-election bid to Kansas Republican Roger Marshall beating Barbara Bollier in a tight U.S. Senate race that Democrats had hoped to win for the first time in 88 years.
In Kansas, Republicans maintained their supermajority in the statehouse, including their power to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes on legislation.
Fabian Shepard, chair of the Johnson County Republican Party, said although he’s disappointed in the results of the presidential election, the party was thrilled with the results of Kansas’ state and local down ballot races.
“We won pretty much everything that we expected to win,” Shepard said. “We had losses where we felt like some people made a fantastic effort, but they were going to be challenges. We were thrilled to flip a couple. The Democratic Party spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in statehouse races, and we whipped them.”
Shepard said it’s the Republican Party’s ideas that are winning over voters.
“What we saw before is we saw some people who masqueraded as Republicans running for our seats, but when we have a choice between a real Republican and a Democrat, they choose the Republican ideas,” he said. “What we don’t need in Kansas is a bunch of people who say they’re Republicans and then turn around and endorse Democrats.”
Johnson County, Kansas was one of several suburban areas in the U.S. that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden. Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids, who represents the district encompassing Johnson County, won her re-election bid against Republican Amanda Adkins.
In 2016, Trump won the county by nearly 3 percentage points; this year, Biden led Johnson County by about 7 percentage points. It was a flip fueled by data showing that Johnson County saw about a 42% increase in registered Democrats since the 2016 election, according to a Beacon analysis.
Ben Meers, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, is already looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections, when the party hopes to make gains in the state legislature.
“We’d like to help support the governor and her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, help pass the Medicaid expansion and help hardworking Kansas families,” Meers said.
Bonnie Limbird, 44, of Prairie Village, Kansas, heard the news of Biden’s win on a Zoom call with the local organization Stand Up for Black Lives. She and other participants on the Zoom call were talking about diversity and the history of redlining in Kansas City when someone put in the chat that Biden had surpassed 270 electoral votes.
She quickly pulled away from the Zoom to yell out the news to her family in the yard.
Limbird, who volunteered with the Johnson County chapter of the League of Women Voters to help get out the vote, said the election made her feel anxious.
“I’m kind of hitting a plateau on the energy level that it was requiring to stay focused and energized for it because it just was such a long process,” she said. “The whole election for 2020 has just been going on for so long. And it almost feels like it never really stopped from 2016.”
On Tuesday night, as results slowly began to trickle in once polls had closed, Kansas City, Missouri resident Rashid M. Bey, 30, obsessively refreshed the results and studied the numbers. At around 3 a.m. Wednesday, he decided to call it quits on looking at the results.
He heard about Biden’s win when a friend in the United Kingdom called to tell him the news.
For Bey, the initial relief he felt in knowing Trump was voted out gave way to uncertainty as he thought about what a Biden presidency would look like.
“It’s (a) relief because there’s not someone actively stoking the fires,” he said. “But there’s still like this dread that Biden will not do enough with his administration to cool political tensions and reverse the damage that’s been done, and to essentially offer and afford others that help and relief that they need.”
Though the Biden campaign has repeatedly made overtures in returning to a semblance of normalcy in politics, Bey said that’s essentially impossible.
“Trump’s impact is irreversible — it just is, period,” Bey said. “There’s no going back to the way things were. What we have to do is figure out how to go ahead, knowing the way things were … which requires us doing a lot of work and understanding the conditions that set that up.”
What Bey hopes to see from a Biden administration: Direct and compassionate action.
“What I would want from a Biden administration is a serious recognition of that. And beyond that recognition, an action to actually … return power to the people, to listen to the people.”