Unusual state Republican Party convention set for Saturday

DOVER — Delaware Republicans will convene Saturday to endorse statewide candidates and pick their delegates for the national convention, just days after Democrats here did the same.

Originally slated for late April, the convention was shifted to July due to COVID-19. The virus also prompted Delaware’s presidential primary election to be moved from April 28 to (eventually) July 7.

This weekend, hundreds of Republicans will gather at the Milford-area home of Kent County GOP Chairman Hank McCann, with some also participating remotely, to hear from the 13 Republicans running for five statewide offices.

Those who come to the event itself will have to wear face coverings when around others, get their temperatures checked before entering and sign a waiver, party Chairwoman Jane Brady said.

Though the Republican Party considered holding its convention entirely online because of coronavirus, officials opted not to do so, believing an in-person event will better allow the 341 delegates to get to know the candidates and their positions.

“We have a lot of newcomers, and I want to get people excited about the candidates,” Ms. Brady said, noting the delegates and candidates have been unable to interact as much as normal because of COVID.

While the party has just one candidate for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner, seven people are competing for the GOP’s support for governor, and two apiece are seeking it for the U.S. House and Senate.

Though Ms. Brady said Wednesday every candidate was expected to attend, the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Colin Bonini announced Thursday night he will not be attending the gathering.

“I have consulted 5 different physicians (4 of them Republican) and after explaining, in detail, the demographics of our delegates and the numerous safeguards the party will be implementing– to put it mildly, all of them thought holding the convention was a terrible idea, and frankly used much stronger language,” state Sen. Bonini said in a statement. “Having a convention in the middle of a pandemic will be universally criticized by the citizens of Delaware. Regardless of the safeguards and of the good intentions of all those involved, the perception will be that the GOP has been irresponsible.

“The Convention endorsement is non-binding as the Party is not allowed, by rule, to offer any tangible support to the ‘winner’ of the convention. Every state-wide candidate I have spoken to plans on participating in the September Primary Election regardless of the results of the convention.”

In 2016, the GOP did not pick between its two candidates for insurance commissioner after several ballots failed to deliver the needed 60% for either one. That is unlikely this time around, according to the chairwoman.

“It does not help us to leave the convention without an endorsed candidate,” Ms. Brady said.

An endorsement does not mean the party will spend financial resources helping that candidate in the primary, however.

In addition to backing political hopefuls, the GOP will select 16 delegates for the national convention, which is set to take place in late August in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. By virtue of their positions with the party, Ms. Brady, National Committeeman Mr. McCann and National Committeewoman Mary McCrossan are automatically slated to attend as voting members.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party convention, which was supposed to be held in early May, took place virtually over the past week.

One hundred sixty delegates selected 14 individuals to attend the national convention, which will take place next month in Milwaukee but with much of it actually conducted online. Those 14 join the 12 who are automatically included by virtue of their position, among them presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the three members of Delaware’s congressional delegation, several other state officials and a handful of designated party leaders.

The party’s 25-person executive committee voted virtually Wednesday to endorse Mr. Biden, who is set to be the first Delawarean to be nominated by a major party for president. The committee also backed the five statewide incumbents.

“Being ‘Delaware’s Joe Biden’ has been the honor of my life,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “To know that those who know me best have my back in this race isn’t only humbling, it’s inspiring. You’ve always been there for me and I’ve never forgotten it and I never will. Thank you for your support, and for your friendship through all these years.”

In total, the state Democratic Party will have a 38-person delegation, although only 31 attendees of those will be voting members.

With COVID delaying the state primary twice, Delaware Democrats had to seek a waiver from the national party to hold their selection process so late, Executive Director Jesse Chadderdon said.

Democrats were happy to shift to an online-only event as a precaution, according to Mr. Chadderdon.

“We’re trying to be really careful with the COVID stuff,” he said, describing the GOP as “crazy” for having its event in-person.

Delaware’s primary election is Sept. 15.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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