Democrats win two Delaware State Senate seats

State Sen. Dave Lawson directs traffic in front of the Cheswold Fire Station. Lawson took over when a Cheswold police officer was out on a call on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Democrats expanded their lead in the General Assembly Tuesday, picking up two Senate seats in New Castle County. No other incumbents lost in the general election.

Several Democrats suffered primary defeats in September. In each instance there, the winner triumphed Tuesday.

Democrats now hold 14 of 21 Senate positions in addition to 26 of 41 House seats.

The 151st General Assembly is set to be the most diverse class in state history, with 12 Black members, two openly gay lawmakers and the first openly transgender state senator to be elected in the country. Additionally, one of those Black victors is believed to be the first practicing Muslim individual to be elected to a state office here.

The next legislative session, which kicks off in January, will also have a splash of youth, with several millennials joining the holdovers.

Kyle Evans Gay unseated Minority Whip Cathy Cloutier in the 5th Senatorial District in northern New Castle County. Sen. Cloutier was first elected to the legislature in 1998.

In the 7th Senatorial District, Spiros Mantzavinos topped Anthony Delcollo, who earned a first term by defeating the president pro tempore in 2016. Mr. Mantzavinos garnered 51.3% to defeat one of the GOP’s few rising stars.

Because of New Castle’s strong blue lean, both were seen as vulnerable and top priorities for the Democratic Party.

Going into the election, only six of the 38 legislative seats partially or completely in New Castle were held by the GOP, compared to 21 of 35 two decades ago.

Elsewhere up north, Rep. Mike Ramone hung on in the 21st, while Rep. Mike Smith earned a second term in the 22nd. Both fought off Democratic challengers to keep their seats, leaving them as the only two GOP lawmakers from north of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, one of the traditional dividing lines between upstate and downstate.

Sen. Dave Lawson held off Democrat Jaci Hugg in the 15th Senatorial District, collecting 55.4% of the vote. In the neighboring 14th, Sen. Bruce Ennis, the oldest member of the legislature, triumphed with 59.4% against Craig Pugh.

The other two downstate Senate districts were uncontested, with Republicans Gerald Hocker and Brian Pettyjohn earning two more years.

Incumbents in the House mostly coasted to victory, as a potential blue wave failed to materialize.

With President Pro Tempore David McBride losing in a primary in September, the Senate Democratic caucus will have a new leader. It’s unclear who will emerge victorious in that contest.

Lawmakers are expected to pick their caucus leadership later this week.

Sarah McBride became one of the first transgender state legislators in history, pulling in 73.3% of ballots cast in the 1st Senatorial District. A well-known activist, she received kudos from many sources early in the night when her victory in the Wilmington-area district became clear.

“I’m so thankful to the hundreds of volunteers who made calls, sent texts, and talked to voters to bring our neighbors together. I’m humbled by the support of neighbors and ready to work every day to make a difference in the lives of all the residents of the First Senate District,” she said in a statement.

“I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too. As Delaware continues to face the COVID crisis, it’s time to get to work to invest in the policies that will make a difference for working families.”

The 151st General Assembly figures to be one of the most progressive in state history. Likely priorities include raising the minimum wage, expanding voting rights, protecting health care access, combating climate change and adding gun control laws.

Democrats have held both chambers of the General Assembly for 12 consecutive years.