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Bernie Sanders’ primary election win spanned much of Sonoma County

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, the fiery democratic socialist from Vermont, swept Sonoma County voting precincts from Cloverdale to Sonoma Valley on his way to a resounding Super Tuesday victory in California that confirmed the Democrat-rich county and state’s leftward lean.

Taking 30% of the local vote, Sanders topped former vice president Joe Biden by 10 points as the two captured half of Sonoma County’s nearly 70,000 presidential primary votes reported so far. The next three candidates — Michael Bloomberg with 17%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14% and Pete Buttigieg at 9% — won most of the remaining vote.

But Super Tuesday proved bittersweet for Sanders supporters like Theresa Pisani, a Camp Meeker artist, who said she voted for Bernie because his ideals aligned with hers on issues including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and forgiving college student debt.

“I liked the way he ran his campaign,” she said. “He didn’t badmouth people. He talked about what he wanted to do for us.”

The political downer was that Sanders won only three other states — Vermont, Utah and Colorado — while Biden captured the other 10 and emerged from Super Tuesday with 664 delegates, 91 more than Sanders. They are now the last two men standing in line for the Democratic nomination.

In California, Sanders topped Biden by about 9 points. His win in Sonoma County was his second — in 2016 he prevailed by less than 6,000 votes over Hillary Clinton, who claimed California.

Second place in the Golden State this time wouldn’t do for Sanders or his supporters.

“I was very proud that he won California,” Pisani said, at home among the redwoods along rural Bohemian Highway. “It was the only thing that kept me from being depressed the next day.”

She likely had plenty of company in a large precinct covering Occidental and Camp Meeker that gave Sanders 41% of the votes and only 14% to Biden. Statewide, Sanders had 34% and Biden 25%.

A lifelong voter, Pisani said her political awareness includes an indelible childhood memory of attending with her parents an impassioned speech by South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, who ran for president in 1972 on a campaign to end the Vietnam War, inspiring young people and backed by a host of celebrities including John Lennon, Jack Nicholson and Dionne Warwick.

McGovern lost 49 states to Richard Nixon in what was then the second largest landslide in history, an outcome Sanders critics often cite.

Ginny Matheson, a Sebastopol retiree and member of the political action group Indivisible Sonoma County, voted for Biden, who picked up endorsements before and after Super Tuesday from withdrawing candidates Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg.

“I think he has a good life experience,” Matheson said, noting that Biden had acquired “compassion for people” from the loss of his first wife and young daughter in a car crash and his son Beau, the former Delaware attorney general, to brain cancer.

Matheson said she likes some of Sanders’ policies, such as Medicare for All and student loan forgiveness, but doubts the contentious senator could deliver them.

Biden is the more moderate of the two Democrats and has a better chance of beating President Donald Trump, she said. Matheson decided on Biden after watching his 60 Minutes interview in October in which he called Trump “an idiot” for saying Russian election interference was a hoax.

Gary Bayless, a retired jeweler who lives in the Mark West Springs area north of Santa Rosa, said he voted for Bloomberg because “I thought he had what it takes — in this case money” and an “ability to make things happen.”

As it turned out, Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor, was “not very good at debating and he had a hard time smiling at people who were picking on him,” Bayless said.

Bloomberg, who spent more than $500 million on his brief campaign and dropped out on Wednesday, could still make a strong running mate with Biden, he said.

Sanders, whose socialist philosophy dates back to the 1960s, “just isn’t the type of politician we need to beat Trump,” Bayless said. His precinct was evenly divided, giving Bloomberg 23%, Biden 22% and Sanders 20%.

Heather Bussing, an attorney and Healdsburg resident, came away from Super Tuesday “angry and sad” after voting for Warren, who dropped out of the race Thursday.

“Once again, we have an amazingly gifted woman running for office with real and practical ideas and she’s being ignored,” Bussing said, regarding Warren’s experience as an echo of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump four years ago.

Women running for office are “held to a different standard, expected to be likable and better prepared yet some people are frightened because a woman is better prepared,” Bussing said.

She also lamented that the presidential campaign began “with the most diverse slate of candidates in the history of the country and we’re closing it with two white men in their 70s.”

The initial field included a Latina and Latino, a gay man, an Asian and two African American men and six women.

Bussing said she wasn’t ready to pick a nominee. “At this point my only criteria is who can beat Trump.”

A map produced for the first time by the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Office captures the breadth of Sanders appeal, with precincts he won covering about 60% of the county, stretching from the Mendocino County line to San Pablo Bay.

Virtually all west county precincts went for Sanders, who also claimed most of the territory surrounding Petaluma and most of the Rohnert Park area, including Sonoma State University.

Central Santa Rosa and Roseland favored Sanders, but a northeastern segment of the city was a hodgepodge of Warren, Bloomberg and Biden support.

The city of Sonoma’s environs were a mix of precincts won by Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg, and a stretch of Highway 12 from Kenwood to Boyes Hot Springs has Sanders precincts to the west across from Bloomberg precincts to the east.

Support for Warren and Biden was scattered around the county, while Bloomberg won precincts in a rough arc from The Sea Ranch on the coast moving eastward above Healdsburg and dropping down east of Wikiup, taking in the Mayacamas Golf Club and Fountaingrove, the latter an upscale area one pundit described as “chamber of commerce Democrats.”

More than half of the county’s registered voters (55%) are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by 3-to-1, while 23% are independents.

Running without significant opposition, President Trump has received about 84% of votes tallied so far in the county’s Republican primary, though the nearly 18,000 votes he received were more than any Democrat but Sanders got.

Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters, said the map was created on a website the county is using at a cost of $9,715 a year for three years.

“Sonoma County is Bernie country,” Brian Sobel, a Petaluma political analyst, said after checking the map, which allows users to click on individual precincts for a more detailed breakdown.

“It’s a nice tool. You can look at what your neighborhood is thinking,” Sobel said.

In Petaluma, a working-class precinct in the Payran area near the river went 35% for Sanders, 18% for Biden and l1% for Bloomberg, while a precinct including mansions on D Street went 29% for Sanders, 22% for Biden and 16% for Bloomberg, Sobel noted.

“The people with money looked at Bloomberg,” he said.

David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, said the map gives residents “confirmation that your neighbors are different from you or exactly the same.” A social theory called “the big sort” asserts that a mobile society enables like-minded people to cluster together, promoting political polarization, he said.

The county’s new vote-mapping capacity will be of greater use to political consultants when it is applied to controversial ballot measures that reveal personal attitudes, such as rent control and tax reform, McCuan said.

“We need several election cycles to see what’s going on,” he said.

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