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People were shouting, children were whistling, horns were honking and the days-long dance party that started earlier this week erupted across the city as Philadelphia learned Saturday morning their state had been called for Joe Biden, and with it, the presidency.
Biden has many ties to Philly, and it was an update on the city’s vote count that gave the Scranton-born Democrat the needed 30k-plus vote margin in Pennsylvania.
“Thank you, to Philadelphia! Thank you to the voters,” said South Philly native Renee Wilson, 49, an organizer with the Unite Here union. “We have been knocking doors since October the first, six days a week. … On Election Day we worked 12 hours.”
Caroline Turner was biking to Malcolm X Park from South Philly when cheering erupted in the street. She looked at her phone and saw it.
“I feel amazing,” Turner, 60, said. “Such a relief, so much joy, so much hope where there wasn’t hope before.”
West Philly’s 52nd street was a boisterous celebration. Passengers hung out of car windows with horns honking. A packed SUV drove past 38-year-old John Rogers pumping Biden Harris signs out of the sun roof.
“I’ve never really experienced this much violence in the past year and some change,” he said of Donald Trump’s presidency. “We due for change.”
A massive, impromptu celebration broke out at City Hall, and a planned “vote counting” rally at Independence Mall looked to turn into a giant victory party.
“Seeing Biden wins really shows us that we’re going to keep fighting for justice,” said Rabbi Michelle Greenfield, 31, of Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia. “People are out in the street, not just fighting, but fighting with joy.”
Philadelphians were equally excited about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who made history in multiple ways.
When she takes office in January, the California native will become the country’s first woman VP, first Black person to become VP and first South Asian American to become VP.
“On that vice presidential picture, there was no ink on that portrait,” said 62-year-old Walter Jones, bishop of 52nd Street’s Fisherman’s House World Evangelistic Church. “We thank God that he put some ink on there because now the country can look at some things from another man’s perspective.”
Turner, the South Philly resident from Britain and a former public defender, spoke about Harris’ career as a prosecutor.
“She was a bit harsh [but] I think she’s really evolving … I’m delighted that there’s a vice president who knows what the justice system is like and who’s working to reform it.”
Though their victory has been called by news organizations, but official tallies won’t come in until after election officials count each vote and certify the victor in the next few weeks.
When he announced his candidacy 27 years ago in April 2019, Billy Penn postured tongue-in-cheek about what a Joseph R. Biden presidency could mean for Philly.
Ice cream at every Flyers game! Eagles practice on the White House South Lawn! What we did not quite predict? An all out war over counting legally-received mail-in ballots that saw Philadelphia as its ground zero days after in-person voting ended.
It only feels right that the Philly region — to which Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden have such strong ties, and which has one of the largest populations of Black residents of any big U.S. city — helped hoist them into their future roles as President, Vice President and First Lady.
Brendan Hartranft, owner of West Philly’s Clarkville pizzeria, said he got goosebumps thinking about Philly’s role in Biden’s win.
“I’m really honored that in such a pivotal moment in our country, Philadelphia yet again, takes center stage,” Hartranft, 41, said. “We have so much history, and the fact that we can make history again, even being 250-plus years old, is such a big strength for me.”
When Biden announced this presidency bid, he did it on Ben Franklin Parkway. He cemented his campaign’s commitment to the area when he set up his campaign HQ here at 1500 Market St., behind the Clothespin across from City Hall. He held rallies at the Art Museum steps.
Also, extremely important note: He’s an Eagles fan.
Biden’s Irish paternal and maternal great-great grandfathers settled in Pa.’s Lackawanna County in the mid-1800s, and he himself was born in Scranton.
He lived in the city’s Green Ridge neighborhood before moving as a 10-year-old to Claymont, Del. That’s about a 35-minute drive from Philly, where his wife has even deeper roots.
After being born in Hammonton, NJ and later living in Hatboro, Jill Biden’s family moved to Willow Grove. She attended Upper Moreland High and tells the tale of breaking into the Upper Moreland Swim Club at night because her family couldn’t afford membership at the go-to spot for Philly suburb families. She waitressed down the shore as a teen and young adult, and her dad went from a bank teller to president at Chestnut Hill Bank.
Her local connection really came to the fore when the 69-year-old, 5′ 6″ woman stiff armed a heckler at a February rally in Los Angeles in February. She said she made the move because she’s “a good Philly girl.”
The Bidens had their first blind date in Philadelphia, and the city remained their date destination. Two of their children attended the University of Pennsylvania: Beau, a lawyer who died in 2015, and Ashley.
Maybe that means there’ll be a Philadelphian in the cabinet? Stay tuned.