Ballot for Senate special election set

DOVER — Democrat Stephanie Hansen and Republican John Marino will face off early next year in a special election that will determine who controls the Senate.

With Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, being elected lieutenant governor last month, the 10th Senate District seat is set to become vacant. While Democrats currently hold an 11-10 lead in the Senate, Sen. Hall-Long’s departure will make it 10-10, albeit with the Democratic Party still in charge because the General Assembly convenes before the lieutenant governor is sworn in.

Much more is at stake than in the last legislative special election, in September 2015: If Mr. Marino wins, the Republican Party will control the chamber for the first time in 44 years.

John Marino

The GOP is already hinting at what line of attack it will use, with party Chairman Charlie Copeland saying in a statement “one-party rule has failed our schools, our government and our economy.”

The Democratic Party controls the governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, New Castle County Democratic Chair Betsy Maron said in a statement that Democrats “cannot allow Republicans to bring their discriminatory and anti-worker agenda to Delaware’s General Assembly.”

The contest, which will likely be the most expensive special election in state history, is expected to be held in late February or early March.

Mr. Marino, a retired police officer who currently works as a realtor, ran unsuccessfully for the same Senate seat in 2014, losing to Sen. Hall-Long by 267 votes. He also campaigned for the state House in 2010, coming up 282 votes short of his Democratic opponent.

“I look forward to spreading my message of reforming and improving our government to the great people of the 10th District,” he said in a statement. “Delaware deserves much better than we’ve been getting from our state government, and I have a plan to get the results Delawareans deserve.”

Ms. Hansen is an environmental attorney who served as New Castle County Council president from 1996 to 2000.

“There’s a lot of people that have now put their faith and trust in me,” she said of being selected by the party. “My job is going to be able to get up there and do the very best job that I can.”

Stephanie Hansen

This is her second run for office, after her 1996 campaign.

Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, has known Ms. Hansen for more than 25 years and called her a “tremendously competent individual” who will serve the district and state well.

Six candidates formally sought the Democratic nomination, although Rep. Earl Jaques, who had been rumored to be the frontrunner, was not among them.

The Glasgow-area lawmaker had been considering running but said his family did not want him to and he was reluctant to give up his spot as chairman of the House Education Committee.

Republicans believe flipping the chamber would go a long way toward bringing balance to Delaware government. A victory for Mr. Marino would also create problems for Gov.-elect John Carney, a Democrat who would be forced to compromise on some parts of his agenda.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 15,900 to 9,900 in the 10th district, but numbers are no guarantee. Sen. Hall-Long has represented the district for the past eight years, but her predecessor, Steve Amick, was a Republican who held the seat for 14 years.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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