13 of 51 legislative seats uncontested

DOVER — With the first filing deadline in the rearview mirror, more than a dozen lawmakers are in position to coast to reelection.

While one House seat currently has seven people in the running, 13 people seeking election have no opponents. All 13 of those are sitting lawmakers, although one is a representative running for the Senate.

Lack of a challenger at this stage doesn’t mean their paths will be entirely free, however, as minor parties still have a month to nominate candidates and the two major parties can select hopefuls for uncontested races until Sept. 4, two days before the primary.

Filed candidates have until 4:30 Friday to drop out or seek a different office without forfeiting their filing fees.

Seven of the 13 uncontested seats have one Republican running, while the other six feature a single Democrat. All of the uncontested offices held by Democratic lawmakers are in New Castle County.

All five statewide seats are contested, with four of them set to feature primaries.

Twelve of the 51 legislators — eight representatives and four senators — up in this election cycle are retiring, while two representatives are running for state Senate seats. That turnover has sparked interest among would-be lawmakers, and 10 of the 14 vacated seats have primaries.

If nothing changes, there will be four three-way primaries, two four-way contests and one five-way battle on Sept. 6. Two districts will hold primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides.

While potentially seeing nearly a quarter of legislative candidates go unchallenged may seem like a lot, it pales in comparison to 2016, when 23 lawmakers coasted through. Fourteen had no challengers in both the primary and the general election in 2014.

Ten people were nominated by parties after the filing deadline two years ago, with seven of those coming from third parties.

So far, just six third-party candidates have filed. Green Party members are seeking a U.S. Senate seat, the state treasurer’s post and New Castle County Council, while Libertarians are set to be on the ballot for the U.S. Senate and two state House seats.

There were some surprises and big announcements over the final 24 or so hours, led by Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington, announcing he would not seek reelection to the 3rd Senatorial District after 40 years representing the district.

James Spadola jumped into the auditor’s race under the wire to give the GOP a candidate for the seat, and fellow Republican Peggy Marshall Thomas, who had already submitted some paperwork, officially filed for attorney general. Both will face the winner of busy Democratic primaries.

Perennial candidate Rose Izzo, the 2014 Republican nominee for the U.S. House, filed for the 7th Representative District as a Democrat. That district will witness a five-way primary unless someone drops out.

Between Monday and Tuesday, five previously unopposed Democratic lawmakers picked up opponents.

Delaware Republican Party Chairman Mike Harrington Sr. noted the party is contesting every seat in Kent and Sussex counties, although New Castle is a different story.

“We’re working on them,” he said. “However, those particular districts are — if there’s 10,000 voters there’s 8,000 Democrats. I am working on it, but I’m not too hopeful that I’ll find somebody.”

While none of the six uncontested New Castle districts are 80 percent Democratic, Democrats make up a majority of registered voters in half of them and a plurality in the other three.

Delaware Democratic Party Executive Director Jesse Chadderdon said Democratic leadership hopes to find candidates for every race. He is optimistic the party will nominate individuals for at least a few of the seven seats that do not have any Democrats running.

“We really want to be sure that we’re giving voters choices all up and down the state,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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