Delaware primary races to be decided Tuesday

DOVER — When Delaware voters go to the polls Tuesday, it will be as residents of the final state to hold a separate state primary election.

Delaware’s primary election, which in the best of times is only two months before the November general contest, was postponed two weeks this year due to COVID-19. The virus has also sparked some special precautions, chiefly expanded vote-by-mail.

Whether hoping for major upsets or for the continuation of the status quo, Democratic and Republican voters will have a chance to make their voices heard.

While not nearly as much will be at stake compared to Nov. 3, one doesn’t have to go back too far to find examples of why primaries matter. Whether it’s Jack Markell beating John Carney in the 2008 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell stunning moderate Republican Mike Castle in the Senate GOP race in 2010 or Bryan Townsend upending the highest-ranking lawmaker in the state Senate in 2012, there is no shortage of examples illustrating how primary elections can shape the state.

This election is “closed,” meaning Democrats can only vote in races with Democratic candidates and Republicans can only do the same with GOP hopefuls.

Here’s what to watch for Tuesday.

Statewide Democratic races

The headliner among statewide races for Democrats is the U.S. Senate primary, where Jess Scarane is trying to pull off an upset over incumbent Chris Coons. While some might deplore comparisons to the race between Mr. Castle and Ms. O’Donnell, the ties are obvious — for one thing, Sen. Coons easily could have lost the 2010 race to Mr. Castle had it not been for Ms. O’Donnell’s primary win.

Running on a platform that includes a Green New Deal, a livable minimum wage, higher taxes on the top earners and major criminal justice reform, Ms. Scarane is trying to unseat Sen. Coons from the left. A victory would be a major feather in the cap for the insurgent leftist movement in the Democratic Party, which has seen politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York shoot to prominence in recent years.

As of Aug. 26, Sen. Coons had $2.73 million in his campaign account, compared to $150,000 for Ms. Scarane.

In 2018, progressive activist Kerri Evelyn Harris garnered 35.4% in a primary against longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Carper. Even if she loses, Ms. Scarane could still make a statement by handily beating that percentage.

Also Tuesday, Gov. John Carney will face David Lamar Williams Jr. Gov. Carney had $454,000 available in his campaign account as of Sept. 7. Mr. Williams had not filed a finance report, likely indicating he plans to spend less than $500 on his campaign.

Democratic voters also can pick between two candidates for insurance commissioner, as Kayode Abegunde tries to deny Trinidad Navarro a second term.

Mr. Navarro, the former sheriff of New Castle County, has been dogged by allegations of racism and sexism in the office, which he has denied.

The incumbent has a major financial advantage, with almost $70,000 on hand as of Sept. 7. Mr. Abegunde had a little more than $700.

Statewide Republican races

Democrats control all nine of Delaware’s statewide seats, and Republicans are eager to end that dominance. GOP voters have a crowded gubernatorial primary to go with less-congested races for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Seeking the party’s nominee for governor are Colin Bonini, Bryant Richardson, Julianne Murray, David Graham, David Bosco and Scott Walker.

Ms. Murray received the party’s endorsement in July (the GOP can’t spend money on or otherwise promote her until after the primary, however) and is hoping to tap into a well of fury over COVID-19 restrictions. Similarly, both state Sens. Bonini and Richardson are running on platforms that include removing many coronavirus-related mandates, aiming to channel populist energy.

Sen. Bonini, the party’s nominee in 2016, pulled in 39.2% of the vote then.

A Republican has not won a gubernatorial election here since 1988.

As of Sept. 7, Ms. Murray had $21,200 to spend, while Sen. Richardson had $5,800. Sen. Bonini possessed almost $24,700 but also has the backing of some big-money interests, such as Chris Kenny, owner of Kenny Family ShopRites and founder of the free-market advocacy group, A Better Delaware.

Each of the two GOP primaries for Congress features both a younger Republican who echoes many of the same “America first” rallying cries that come from President Donald Trump and an older man whom the party endorsed.

In the Senate race, Lauren Witzke faces Jim DeMartino, while Matthew Morris hopes to beat Lee Murphy in the House contest.

Mr. Murphy unsuccessfully sought the party nomination for the House in 2018.

Ms. Witzke and Mr. Morris, both of whom are much younger than their foes, paint themselves as outsiders representing the will of regular Delawareans.

As of Aug. 26, Mr. Murphy had $19,000 available, while Ms. Witzke and Mr. DeMartino reported $23,600 and $26,500, respectively, in cash on hand. Mr. Morris did not file a report.

The winner of the House primary will take on incumbent Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in November.

Legislative races

There are several primaries for legislative seats that could prove of consequence, too, with multiple progressive challengers trying to unseat incumbents in both chambers.

The Smyrna-area 14th Senatorial District has primaries on both sides of the aisle. In the Democratic race, Kyra Hoffner and Terrell Williams are challenging Sen. Bruce Ennis, a moderate lawmaker who’s been in the Delaware Legislature since 1982. On the other side, Craig Pugh and Terry Baker are competing for the GOP nomination.

Of the 57 seats in the General Assembly that are up for grabs in November, this one may be the most likely to flip from Democratic to Republican (Republicans, in contrast, have several seats that are vulnerable).

In the 13th Senatorial District, which covers the New Castle area, Marie Pinkney hopes to unseat President Pro Tempore David McBride. Sen. McBride, who has been in the legislature since 1978, has headed the Senate for the last four years.

He has not had a single challenger in any election in 34 years — longer than Ms. Pinkney has been alive.

Similarly, in the 26th and 27th Representative districts, candidates are trying to beat incumbents by running from the left. Madinah Wilson-Anton faces Rep. John Viola in the Newark-area 26th District, while Eric Morrison squares off with Rep. Earl Jaques in the 27th, which covers Glasgow.

Each of the two races has seen significant spending for a legislative primary.

Meanwhile, in the 1st Senatorial District, Sarah McBride is attempting to become one of the first openly transgender state legislators in the country. Ms. McBride must get past Joe McCole first in the Democratic primary.

Along with the 14th, the only other Downstate legislative primary is the 34th Representative District in Camden-Wyoming. There, Bob Haynes and Ade Kuforiji compete for the Democratic party nod to take on the incumbent, Lyndon Yearick.

County races

Each county has some local primaries, as well, although Kent County will see only one: Joanne Masten and Morgan Russum seeking the Democratic bid for Levy Court’s 1st District. That seat has been held by Brooks Banta, who is retiring, for 24 years.

For Sussex County Council, Cindy Green, Lisa Briggs Hudson and Robert Wilson are running in the 2nd District GOP primary, while the 3rd District features a Republican contest between Councilman I.G. Burton and Mark Schaeffer.

Ms. Green is the register of wills, and Mr. Wilson is the son of the current seatholder, Sam Wilson, who is retiring.

Up north, where registration is heavily Democratic, the primary is often the real contest, and that’s certainly the case for many offices again. There are races for New Castle County Council, including for president, and for executive of the county.

County Executive Matt Meyer, the highest-ranking elected official in New Castle government, is being challenged by Maggie Jones. Mr. Meyer finds himself in a somewhat familiar position — he won election by defeating the incumbent four years ago in a Democratic primary.

There are also primaries in Wilmington — 12 in all, all Democratic. The headliner there is the battle for mayor, with Velda Jones-Potter and Justen Wright trying to prevent Mike Purzycki from winning a second term.