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Local Democrats Hopeful About Biden’s Inauguration, Presidency

Tracey Tapp
Democratic Party of Okaloosa County

After a contentious transition, Joe Biden will take the oath of office Wednesday as President of the United States. The Inauguration begins at 11 a.m.

Local Democratic Party leaders shared their plans for this year’s subdued celebration and their hopes for the future under Biden.

“I will probably be in my living room watching it on TV and perhaps some of the day on some Zoom calls that are going to go out,” said Lillie Eubanks, chair of the Democratic Party of Escambia County.

Pointing to the notable exception of Barack Obama’s historic 2008 inauguration, she says there is generally more upside to watching from home.

“Hey, as we know these days, you get a better view from the television than you do in person.”

“I am not going and I was not planning on going, and mostly that has to do with COVID,” said Matt Becker, chair of the Santa Rosa Democratic Party. “We may set up a Zoom to kind of watch and talk together.”

While the inauguration already had been scaled back due to the pandemic, Becker and Eubanks noted the extraordinarily tight security triggered by the Jan. 6 attack on the U-S Capitol, which they both condemned.

“It was an act of sedition. It was a hostile act to try to prevent the peaceful transition of power, after a fair and Democratic vote,” proclaimed Becker.

“I understand that there are more military in the Capitol than there are in Afghanistan and Iraq, at the moment. It’s a shame,” declared Eubanks.

“But, I think we have to be very wise about what could happen. Hopefully, nothing will happen. But, I think it will be unwise to ignore what took place.”

Eubanks said she knew of a couple of people who had planned to attend the inauguration, until D.C.’s mayor warned people not to come for security reasons.

In regards to discussions about possibly changing the location of the inauguration, the former teacher reminds there have been a few other times in history when such occasions were not held on the steps of the Capitol.

She points to the start of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth term in 1945 amid World War II and the time in 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“Wherever the inauguration takes place, it will be an inauguration and Joe Biden will become president of the United States and that’s the most important thing about what’s going to happen,” she said.

In addition to the tightened security in Washington, D.C. and at the state capital in Tallahassee in light of recent events, Okaloosa Democratic Party Chair Tracey Tapp says there are also concerns about security at the local level.

“We had a request from one of our Black Caucus members to reach out to local municipalities and police departments and just say, hey, you know we’re concerned; we’d like to know what your plans are for keeping us safe,” she explained.

Tapp, who says the local party is busy with two Democratic candidates for Fort Walton Beach City Council, indicated a letter spelling out such issues would be sent ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration. 

Credit Biden Harris Campaign
President-Elect and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who will be inaugurated as President and Vice President Wednesday morning.

She said local authorities responded they were not aware of any specific local threats, but are working closely with local and federal partners.

Looking ahead to the start of the inauguration and incoming-President Biden’s official speech, I asked each of the local Democratic Party leaders what they expect, what they hope to hear from him. Tapp noted Biden’s extensive agenda, but boiled it down to his pandemic response.

“I’m looking primarily for policy ideas around COVID, around the economy, around all the people struggling economically because they’ve lost their jobs or they’re about to lose their homes and kind of wrapped around that an inspirational message of unity,” Tapp stated.

“I want to hear a message that he’s been delivering, but a message that the government will start working for the people again, a message about lifting people up,” said Santa Rosa’s Matt Becker.

“Ensuring that everyone has access to affordable healthcare, that everyone has access to a quality education, that everyone has access to a job that pays a livable wage, that we will be a country that welcomes immigrants, a country that moves toward an equitable criminal justice system,” he said.

Finally, Escambia Democratic Party Chair Lillie Eubanks said she expects more of what Biden has been saying all along. 

“Well, I think he’s made it very clear in previous speeches that he wants to bring the country together. It’s very important to - as he said - be the president of all the people, whether they voted for him or not.”

The inauguration is set to begin at 11 a.m., with live coverage from NPR and WUWF starting at 10 a.m.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.