Is Santa Rosa liberal? The answer is fairly clear-cut.
Yes, Santa Rosa is a liberal city. The political climate of the city is has stayed relatively constant in the past 20 years, with the last presidential election resulting in a 74.5% Democrat vote. Santa Rosa and its county have voted Democratic in every presidential election since 2000.
With those statistics in mind, before we take a look into some of the reasons Santa Rosa has stayed liberal for the past two decades, we must understand what we mean when we say a “liberal city”.
The term liberal when referring to a political stance is the philosophy that strives for equal rights, democracy, and civil liberties. There is also moral liberalism that shares these same views of equality before the law. Liberal movements include the Civil Rights Movement and universal suffrage. Liberal in this sense is the opposition to conservative, meaning the philosophy that favors private ownership and socially traditional ideals. When discussing the city of Santa Rosa the word liberal is used in this way as described. It is obvious, in that case, that Santa Rosa is a liberal state as it is a thriving city rich with civil rights history and continuous movement toward equality.
Political History and Activism
Santa Rosa was founded in 1833 with the first European settlement being the home of the Carillo family. By 1850 the downtown area of Santa Rosa was fast developing and the city continued growing steadily even until 1900.
Because of its proximity to Mexico California has the largest Mexican population in the United States with about 31% of the state’s population being Hispanic. Santa Rosa is a perfect mirror of this state percentage with 32.8% of the population. Since its founding, Santa Rosa has leaned liberal and some believe this is due to the diversity of the city. The city has long supported liberal immigration laws along with its surrounding county. The County Immigration Initiative is one way the county and Santa Rosa has decided to address the improvement of safety and access to services for undocumented immigrant residents.
The city has had plans for more sustainability since 2005 when they resolved to set a GHG emission reduction target for city government operations of 20% below 2000 levels by 2010, and a community-wide GHG reduction target of 25% below 1990 levels by 2015. Santa Rosa has obviously been a big supporter of the fight against climate change and the rise of sustainability in the community. Recently in 2020, the Council adopted a Climate Emergency Resolution. It committed to ongoing efforts to fight climate change through the Climate Action Subcommittee direction, city departments, and collaboration with Regional Climate Protection Authority.
The city also has many options for reducing GHG emissions from transportation. Public transportation has been a good option for many years in Santa Rosa. With the Smart Train running through three different stops in Santa Rosa alone and continuing all the way to San Rafael, it is a great option for commuters due to its constant stream of bus routes as well. It is easy to get from Santa Rosa to San Francisco by this method.
Santa Rosa’s mayor, Chris Rogers, is the city’s youngest mayor to ever be elected. He was first elected for city council in 2016 and then re-elected in 2020 and unanimously chosen for mayor by his colleagues. One legislation he has passed is on the conservation of water and resources. Santa Rosa now has a mandatory 20 percent reduction and restriction on water use as well the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance that is meant to reduce the community use of single-use food ware that contributes to the cities litter, pollution, landfill waste, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Today the county Santa Rosa has three State Assembly members, two State Senators, two U.S. Congress members, and two U.S. Senators who are all aligned with the Democratic party. This alone shows how strongly liberal Santa Rosa and Sanoma County are. However, even the legislation passed by these government officials are testaments to their beliefs and political party.
The State Assembly member of the second district which Santa Rosa falls into is Jim Wood. In his first four years in the Assembly, he has passed legislation to protect medical health care in rural areas, lower the costs of prescription drugs, increase the age necessary to purchase tobacco to 21.
The State Senator Mike McGuire, a representative for the district in which Santa Rosa is part, passed a bill in 2018 that established a statewide protocol for emergency alerts for all 58 counties in California.
U.S. Congress member Mike Thompson introduced a bill to expand background checks to cover all sales and most transfers involving firearms. The regulation of guns in Santa Rosa is as heated a topic as anywhere else. However, it is not met with as much opposition as in other states due to the fact that gun regulation laws tend to be liberally supported legislation.
The support of the Democratic party in SantaRosa is another large statistic. In the last four years, there were 68,309 contributions totaling $6,404,959 to the Democratic party and liberal campaigns in Santa Rosa with only 3,810 contributions ($773,650) to the Republican Party and conservative campaigns. This shows the large divide between the two parties’ support in California.
The current combined local sales tax rate for Santa Rosa is 9.25%, the average being 6.35%. The Santa Rosa sales tax is .75%. California’s taxes are generally high but higher taxes are often a sign of a more liberal-leaning state or city.
The voting history of Santa Rosa and its surrounding county has had a steady Democratic preference as recorded since 2000. While the Democratic voter percentage has been increasing each year in the 70%-80% range starting at 59% in 2000, the Republican percentages have been decreasing at a relatively constant speed since the start at 32%. It is now seen as mid 20%. Independent voting starting at 8% has also remained rather consistent with a sudden drop after 2016 to the current 2%.
In the six presidential elections since 2000, each result from Santa Rosa has been Democratic with a difference of victory greater than 10% each year. This is true for each section of Santa Rosa but statistics show that the Metro Area of Santa Rosa is especially liberal. This is in part due to the downtown lifestyle Santa Rosa projects.
From personal experience, the community in Santa Rosa is liberal both on the surface as well as deeply rooted in the culture. I grew up in Santa Rosa. My family never moved when I was a child and thus I have had many experiences with the city and its government and policies.
I now go to college out of state and the culture shock I have experienced now living in a heavily conservative state is greater than I had anticipated. There are views many of my classmates or roommates have that I had never even considered or been previously exposed to. Through conversations with roommates, I have come to learn that the south has the same weariness of California taught in school as we did weariness of the South. I have realized here how sheltered Santa Rosa is in California, and how the unanimously liberal ideologies of the city are nowhere near normal for the average town.
I myself have been involved in marches, protests, and many other activist programs while living in Santa Rosa. Even during my school years, the students held rallies and walkouts often. There were many walkouts I participated in that protested unfair teacher wages, lax gun regulations that resulted in large school shootings, and police brutality. These were almost always met with large amounts of support from the community.
In 2018 Santa Rosa was ranked No. 2 on a list of U.S. cities with the highest rate of same-sex married couples. This information was provided from federal tax returns according to a report by the Tax Policy Center. Of the residents in California, more than .8 percent of them are same-sex couples. Nearly 1,416 of those couples live in Santa Rosa. This is 1.25% of all married couples in the city. Santa Rosa has often been listed as a top location for LGBT seniors to retire as well.
In regards to the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 Santa Rosa has been very strict, as well as willing to comply, with mask mandates, quarantine advisement, and vaccinations.
There are many reasons the city of Santa Rosa, California is liberal. For one, the residents describe the city as such themselves. Many say that its liberal influence is due to its proximity to San Fransisco and resulting in that culture being heavily present.
However, no matter what party the citizens aline themselves with, it is shown through statistics, action, and policy how liberal the city is. It is an open-minded city willing to change in order to grow with the times as well as the people of the city.
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