By JONATHAN LEMIRE, ZEKE MILLER and WILL WEISSERT
WASHINGTON — Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday and offered himself to the nation as a leader who “seeks not to divide, but to unify” a country gripped by a historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
“I sought this office to restore the soul of America,” Biden said in a prime-time victory speech not far from his Delaware home, “and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.”
Biden crossed the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania. His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed processing.
Trump refused to concede, threatening further legal action on ballot counting. But Biden used his acceptance speech as an olive branch to those who did not vote for him, telling Trump voters that he understood their disappointment but adding, “Let’s give each other a chance.”
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again, to make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy,” he said. “We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy, as well as an appeal to Americans fatigued by Trump’s disruptions and wanting a return to a more traditional presidency, proved effective and resulted in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
Biden’s victory was a repudiation of Trump’s divisive leadership and the president-elect now inherits a deeply polarized nation grappling with foundational questions of racial justice and economic fairness while in the grips of a virus that has killed more than 236,000 Americans and reshaped the norms of everyday life.
Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Harris introduced Biden at their evening victory celebration as “a president for all Americans” who would look to bridge a nation riven with partisanship and she nodded to the historic nature of her ascension to the vice presidency.
“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before,” Harris told Americans. “You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth ... you ushered in a new day for America.”
After he spoke, the cars at the drive-in rally — a pandemic campaign invention — began to honk their horns and a fireworks display lit up the night sky. Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Nonetheless, Trump was not giving up.
Departing from longstanding democratic tradition and signaling a potentially turbulent transfer of power, he issued a combative statement saying his campaign would take unspecified legal actions. And he followed up with a bombastic, all-caps tweet in which he falsely declared, “I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES.” Twitter immediately flagged it as misleading.
Trump has pointed to delays in processing the vote in some states to allege with no evidence that there was fraud and to argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
He was golfing at his Virginia country club when he lost the race. He stayed out for hours, stopping to congratulate a bride as he left, and his motorcade returned to the White House to a cacophony of shouts, taunts and unfriendly hand gestures.
In Wilmington, Delaware, near the stage that, until Saturday night, had stood empty since it was erected to celebrate on Election Night, people cheered and pumped their fists as the news that the presidential race had been called for the state’s former senator arrived on their cellphones.
On the nearby water, two men in a kayak yelled to a couple paddling by in the opposite direction, “Joe won! They called it!” as people on the shore whooped and hollered. Harris, in workout gear, was shown on video speaking to Biden on the phone, exuberantly telling the president-elect “We did it!”
Across the country, there were parties and prayer. In New York City, spontaneous block parties broke out. People ran out of their buildings, banging on pots. They danced and high-fived with strangers amid honking horns. Among the loudest cheers were those for passing U.S. Postal Service trucks.
People streamed into Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, near where Trump had ordered the clearing of protesters in June, waving signs and taking cellphone pictures. In Lansing, Michigan, Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter demonstrators filled the Capitol steps. The lyrics to “Amazing Grace” began to echo through the crowd, and Trump supporters laid their hands on a counter protester, and prayed.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 75 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
Trump’s refusal to concede has no legal implications. But it could add to the incoming administration’s challenge of bringing the country together after a bitter election.
Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, arguing without evidence that the election could be marred by fraud. The nation has a long history of presidential candidates peacefully accepting the outcome of elections, dating back to 1800, when John Adams conceded to his rival Thomas Jefferson.
It was Biden’s native Pennsylvania that put him over the top, the state he invoked throughout the campaign to connect with working class voters. He also won Nevada on Saturday pushing his total to 290 Electoral College votes.
Biden received congratulations from dozens of world leaders, and his former boss, President Barack Obama, saluted him in a statement, declaring the nation was “fortunate that Joe’s got what it takes to be President and already carries himself that way.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill were giving Trump and his campaign space to consider all their legal options. It was a precarious balance for Trump’s allies as they try to be supportive of the president — and avoid risking further fallout — but face the reality of the vote count.
On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not yet made any public statements — either congratulating Biden or joining Trump’s complaints. But retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is close to McConnell, said, “After counting every valid vote and allowing courts to resolve disputes, it is important to respect and promptly accept the result.”
More than 237,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. He announced that, as his transition kicks into high gear, he would on Monday appoint his own coronavirus task force.
But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on some of Biden’s ambitions.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. The president defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself.
Trump was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic. There was another COVID-19 outbreak in the White House this week, which sickened his chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and Twitter blasts.
Trump’s team has filed a smattering of lawsuits in battleground states, some of which were immediately rebuffed by judges. His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was holding a news conference in Philadelphia threatening more legal action when the race was called.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”
Associated Press writers Will Weissert in Wilmington, Delaware and Jill Colvin and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
KINGSPORT — David Quillin began his career at the Kingsport Police Department as a reserve officer in 1984. Over the years, Quillin held numerous positions, from patrol officer to vice detective, and rose through the ranks until ultimately becoming the top cop in the Model City.
Now, after 35 years with the department, Quillin has announced he’s retiring at the end of this year.
The Times-News sat down with Quillin earlier this year to talk about his time with the department, what he plans to do in the future and any advice he might have for the next chief of police in Kingsport.
“We all have an expiration date, and over three and a half decades of being a cop, it’s time to step back, enjoy some things and to do some things I want to do. The department is in a good place, and it’s time to jump off the merry-go-round,” Quillin said. “It is bittersweet, I guess. When you work somewhere for 35 years ... you think a lot about the people. I’ll miss that aspect of coming in here, being around some of the best people in the world, the best people I know.”
A LAW ENFORCEMENT CAREER
Quillin, 57, is a Kingsport native who attended three years at Lynn View High School (until it closed) and was a member of the first graduating class of Sullivan North (though his pedigree is still a Lynx, he argues). He’s a graduate of Tusculum University (with a bachelor of science in organizational management), the FBI National Academy and Leadership Kingsport.
Quillin began his career in law enforcement as a reserve officer with the Kingsport Police Department in 1984, joining the ranks full time the following year. Over the decades, Quillin served as a corrections officer, patrol officer, vice detective, supervisor of the training unit, Criminal Investigations Division commander, administrative captain, and deputy chief of both the administrative and operations bureaus.
The chief also found time through the years to serve as a K-9 handler, SWAT operator, defensive tactics and firearms instructor, and general departmental instructor. Quillin was selected to be the department’s 14th chief in September 2013.
During his tenure in Kingsport, Quillin has met four presidents: George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump (twice).
For a man who’s worked since he was 12 years old, first on a paper route of course, then at a filling station during high school, Quillin said it’s going to be nice to sit back and relax, at least for a little while.
“I’ve got some hobbies and fly fishing is one of them. I expect to spend a little more time in the mountain streams around here. I want to do some traveling, see some different places around the U.S.,” Quillin said. “I’ve no plans to move anywhere. Kingsport has been and always will be home. I’ve had opportunities to travel across the state and to different parts of the country ... but there’s no place like home.”
A JOB LIKE NO OTHER
During Quillin’s tenure as chief, the KPD went through its reaccreditation process, earning the Gold Standard of Excellence. Quillin oversaw a structural realignment of the department to create efficiencies and save tax dollars, created a full-time public information officer position and embraced social media as a tool for crime prevention, suspect identification and public relations.
Quillin placed a renewed emphasis on cold cases, returned the department to an all navy blue uniform and established the Law Enforcement Memorial and Eternal Flame at the corner of Clay and Market in downtown Kingsport.
“Being deputy chief for 13 years, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of what a police chief did. Until you sit in the chair, you have no idea what the job is like,” Quillin said. “Any chief, to be successful, you have to always do the best you can and take care of the men and women that serve the city.”
Quillin offered thanks to a number of people who supported him over the years: first and foremost his parents and family, but also the city managers and mayors who served during his tenure as chief, the many members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the executive staff at the department and the community.
Quillin’s advice to his successor is to “think really hard before you make decisions. It’s important to think things through completely and look at all possible outcomes and who’s affected when decisions are made,” Quillin said. “At the same time, try and be as fair and consistent as you can, don’t have knee-jerk reactions and always do your best to take care of your employees who do a great job day in and day out.”
QUICK HITS FROM QUILLIN
How do national headlines affect local police?
“It affects everyone who wears the uniform. When you look at things that have gone on across the country, don’t judge us on the actions of others. Judge us on our relationships, our professionalism and our actions.”
What’s the most challenging part of the job?
“I’ve always tried to be fair and consistent. I think that’s so important. I’m not sure I’ve always got that right, but it’s something I’ve tried to make a priority when dealing with people. To always be fair, consistent and treat people how you would like to be treated if you were in their place.”
Anything left undone?
“Nothing sticks out. When we began to discuss the homeless issue 18 months ago, a lot of work and effort went into figuring out the best practices, and we brought on a social worker. That’s in place and clicking on all cylinders. Maybe that was the only thing I wanted to see through.”
Thoughts on last year’s protest?
“It did consume a lot of energy. I took an oath to protect, serve and defend the Constitution and certain rights and privileges citizens have. Being able to peacefully protest is certainly protected. That’s my stance and it’ll always be that.”
And on the homeless situation in town?
“We would never target a homeless person or the homeless population. Being homeless is not a crime. At the same time, we have neighborhoods where the citizens are being subjected to criminal behavior, and we absolutely have a right and a responsibility to go up there and provide police services they expect and demand. It’s always about targeting criminal behavior and not the homeless.”
By J.H. OSBORNE
KINGSPORT — Eight more COVID-19 deaths and 255 new COVID-19 cases were reported Saturday in Northeast Tennessee.
Sullivan County had three new deaths and 110 new cases.
Washington County had three new deaths and 56 new cases.
Carter County had one additional death and 31 more cases. And Greene County had one new death and 19 additional cases.
Other new cases reported in the eight-county region: 18 in Hawkins County; 17 in Unicoi County; and four in Johnson County.
Zero new cases were reported in Hancock County.
The region’s pandemic totals reached 16,300 cases and 297 deaths.
Statewide, 49 more deaths and 5,071 new cases brought Tennessee’s pandemic totals to 3,590 deaths (3,370 confirmed as COVID-19 and 220 probable) and 278,215 cases (261,202 confirmed as COVID-19 and 17,013 probable).
Of the 278,215 figure, 249,162 were listed as “inactive/recovered.”
The latest case numbers were based on 44,496 new test results across the Volunteer State, compared to Friday, with a positive rate of 11.10%.
The 49 new deaths reported statewide by age group were: 22 in the 81-plus group; 14 in the 71-80 group; eight in the 61-70 group; two in the 51-60 group; two in the 41-50 group; and one in the 31-40 group.
Source: Tennessee Department of Health, daily COVID-19 report, Nov. 7, 2020.
By MIKE STILL
Far Southwest Virginia’s COVID-19 daily case total hit 100 for the first time during the pandemic and pushed the region over 2,000 total cases, according to Saturday’s state health data.
The Virginia Department of Health reported that the state had 3,671 new cases and 22 additional deaths in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 190,873 cases and 3,704 deaths.
The LENOWISCO Health District for the first time accounted for 100 cases, along with two deaths, for totals of 2,074 and 31 deaths. Wise County saw 67 cases for totals of 854 and 11 deaths. Lee County had 22 cases for 638 and 11 deaths.
Scott County tallied nine cases and two deaths for 521 and nine deaths, while Norton’s case total increased by two for 61 and no deaths.
The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Saturday’s VDH report was 2,986,354 of 8.63 million residents, or 34.6%. For nasal swab testing only, 2,766,353 people have been tested to date, or 32.1%. In the LENOWISCO district, 20,654 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 23.89%.
Pandemic-wide testing rates by locality were:
• Lee County, 6,474 of 23,423, or 27.64%
• Norton, 2,014 of 3,981, or 50.6%
• Wise County, 7,686 of 37,383, or 20.56%
• Scott County, 4,480 of 21,566, or 20.77%
Red Onion State Prison remained at 20 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor cases, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections COVID-19.
Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at no inmate cases and dropped one case for three active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 16 inmate cases and increased from two to four active staff cases.
The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Saturday’s report rose from 14.7% to 20.6%. The statewide positivity rate increased from 5.9% to 6%.
According to Saturday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, cases in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — were ranked as rising after a 47-day increase in cases. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results remained increasing based on a 27-day increase in that measure.
All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district — Wise, Lee and Scott counties and Norton — were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. Norton City Schools was ranked highest-risk for percent change in seven-day case incidences. Wise County Schools and Norton City Schools were ranked higher-risk. Lee county Schools were ranked higher-risk and Scott County Schools lowest-risk.
Do you think you might have COVID-19? Local health departments provide free testing.
The LENOWISCO Health Department, which covers Norton and Lee, Wise and Scott counties, posts regular updates on testing sites across the district and offers free COVID-19 tests at its county offices. Those seeking a test must call in advance for an appointment. Contact numbers for the county offices are:
• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011
• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312
• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000
Additional testing and COVID-19 precaution information can be found at the LENOWISCO Health District’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Lenowisco.
The Health Wagon will partner with the Virginia Department of Health to offer 17 sessions of free drive-thru testing at Food City in St. Paul through Dec. 31. Call (276) 328-8850 for an appointment.
In Southwest Virginia, online resources are available to help evaluate whether residents might be infected and where to get a COVID-19 test. The Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDCHECK (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/) can walk a user through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.