Coons wins big, Murray claims GOP gubernatorial nod

Sen. Chris Coons being interviewed by reporters outside the polling place at the Cheswold firehouse Tuesday afternoon. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — Democratic incumbents avoided being upset in statewide primaries Tuesday, while Republican voters selected nominees for three statewide races, including the victor of a crowded field of gubernatorial hopefuls.

In the marquee statewide Democratic race, Sen. Chris Coons held off a challenge from his left by progressive candidate Jess Scarane, garnering almost three-quarters of the vote.

Meanwhile, Julianne Murray defeated state Sen. Colin Bonini and four others for the Republican Party’s nod for governor, and Lauren Witzke topped the party-endorsed Republican for Senate.

Now, just seven weeks before the Nov. 3 general election, the field is finally set. Competing for the state’s chief executive job will be Ms. Murray, Democratic Gov. John Carney, Libertarian John Machurek and Kathy DeMatteis of the Independent Party of Delaware.

The Senate race will feature Sen. Coons and Ms. Witzke along with Libertarian Nadine Frost and Independent Party of Delaware nominee Mark Turley. In the lower chamber of Congress, the battle for the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives will have Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Libertarian David Rogers, Independent Catherine Purcell and Republican Lee Murphy, who won a primary Tuesday.

In addition, the general election will have Democratic incumbent Bethany Hall-Long and Republican Donyale Hall competing for lieutenant governor and, for insurance commissioner, Democratic officeholder Trinidad Navarro and Republican Julia Pillsbury squaring off. Mr. Navarro had to defend his seat in a primary contest, while the others faced no opposition Tuesday.

Democrats currently control every statewide office, and they will be favored to retain those positions in the general election, but Republicans are hoping anger over coronavirus restrictions and a base motivated by President Donald Trump can change that.

In the end, Tuesday saw no big surprises at the statewide level. Some Democrats had hoped for more progressive challengers to unseat Sen. Coons and Gov. Carney, but those bids proved unsuccessful.

Like Delaware’s Democratic Senate primary two years ago, this Senate race featured a moderate incumbent known for his bipartisan approach and a more left-leaning challenger with a vision for bold reform. Kerri Evelyn Harris garnered 35% in 2018 against Sen. Tom Carper, but Ms. Scarane proved unable to hit that mark, with coronavirus likely hindering her campaign. She was also significantly outspent.

Both of those Senate primaries can be seen as microcosms of the battle in the Democratic Party, as voters fight over whether it should move to the left.

Despite the primary challenges, Sen. Coons believes Democratic voters are more unified than they’ve been in decades, thanks to a common goal of getting President Trump out of the White House.

“I also think it’s an encouraging sign that we folks from my sort of general bent, what I’d call Joe Biden Democrats, are winning in election after election at the federal and state level,” he said.

Gov. Carney, who is seeking his second and final term, secured the Democratic Party nomination with ease, pulling in 85% of the vote as of press time Tuesday. Opponent David L. Williams Jr. failed to develop a presence during campaign season and was vastly outspent.

Among Republicans, Ms. Murray roared into the lead in recent months, channeling anger over COVID-19 restrictions. She proved herself to be a serious candidate when the party endorsed her at its July convention, and she won despite Sen. Bonini boasting a financial advantage.

Ms. Witzke topped Jim DeMartino, who received the party endorsement, with 57% as of press time.

Mr. Murphy, who suffered an embarrassing loss in the 2018 House GOP primary, faced little difficulty Tuesday. Facing off against Matthew Morris, the party-supported candidate earned 74% of ballots cast as of press time.

In a race that has received little attention, Mr. Navarro, the current insurance commissioner, topped Democratic challenger Kayode Abegunde with 64%.