Republican Senate primary: Foes calling for law and order, no lockdowns

DOVER — No matter who wins the Republican Senate primary, their vision for America is dramatically different than that held by whomever Democratic Party voters nominate.

On Sept. 15, Jim DeMartino and Lauren Witzke will face off in the race to become Delaware’s first Republican senator in 20 years. Both feel President Donald Trump is the nation’s best shot at preventing a socialist tyranny Republicans say a Joe Biden presidency would surely bring, citing the protests and riots in cities like Portland, Oregon; Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Washington.

Jim DeMartino

The two believe the threat of COVID is extinguished, fitting in with a Republican National Convention that portrayed the president as having successfully defeated the virus despite the fact the nation has seen more than 180,000 related fatalities, including 3,000-plus deaths this past week.

In their minds, they stand firmly alongside millions of other patriots fighting to protect the Constitution from the “radical left.”

Mr. DeMartino, 62, is a lawyer from Lewes. He ran unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives in 2016 and 2018.

Ms. Witzke, a 32-year-old Delmar resident, is representative of a new breed of Republicans, younger Americans drawn to the GOP not so much by some its fiscal conservatism but by their admiration for President Trump and his “America first” attitude.

Lauren Witzke

Ms. Witzke said she believes President Trump is the victim of “manufactured scandals by the elites and their propaganda assets in the mainstream media” who hate him because he is a successful outsider. To her, Democrats are “burning our cities in pursuit of a Marxist revolution,” Black Lives Matter is a “terrorist organization” and a Hindu statue being installed outside a temple in Delaware represents “End stage America.”

Marxists have been able “to reframe their classic class struggle into racial terms,” hoodwinking many innocent people and throwing away Black lives in pursuit of communism, she wrote in a questionnaire.

She is traditional, tweeting about how she hopes to get married and have multiple kids in her first term in Congress, and she believes Democrats are aiming to tear down the sacred image of Jesus Christ.

She also wants to revamp welfare programs, instead creating incentives based on marriage and children. Individuals who get divorced would lose their benefits.

“I think everybody can agree that our American families are in crisis and that is a national issue,” she said, advocating for a higher birthrate in the United States.

One of the ways Ms. Witzke differentiates herself from her opponent is with her online presence. Active on Twitter, she’s received support from a handful of niche right-wing personalities, worked with some conservative organizations and campaigns and appeared on One America News Network, a far-right channel.

She has expressed support for QAnon, a conspiracy theory that holds President Trump is one of the last bulwarks holding back pedophile Democrats and their evil allies like Jeffrey Epstein. Like some other right-wing individuals, particularly those who are in-tune with online happenings, she believes the “Deep State” (a broad network of government employees and the like) is “prosecuting an ongoing coup attempt against President Trump” and was behind his impeachment.


Mr. DeMartino said his time in the Marines, as a defense contractor and as an attorney have given him valuable insight into government, experience he believes Ms. Witzke lacks. He was endorsed by the Delaware GOP at its convention in July, although the party cannot spend money on his behalf or otherwise promote him.

For her part, Ms. Witzke said Mr. DeMartino “is a (Republican In Name Only) loser whose Bush-era brand of elitist conservatism has now been roundly rejected by regular, hard-working Republicans in favor of putting America First.”

One of the things they do have in common is contempt for the incumbent, Sen. Chris Coons.

Mr. DeMartino said he decided to run during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing two years ago after he was outraged by Sen. Coons. He felt the Democrat did not give the judicial nominee enough respect and was convinced he was guilty of sexual assault even before hearing Mr. Kavanaugh’s side of the story.

Much of the American way of life is under attack in 2020, Mr. DeMartino said: “We have to restore peace and prosperity to our citizens.”

Despite Delaware’s strong Democratic lean, he believes it is ready to turn red in the fall, pointing to anger and concern over COVID lockdowns and racial unrest.

“It only gets worse,” he said. “As we’ve seen in these other cities, if you don’t enforce it and stop it, it just escalates and more damage and destruction.”

Both candidates support changing the health care system to make it more affordable for average Americans and less profitable for the proverbial Big Pharma.

“We need to reform the entire medical and health care industry, and we saw that as a result of this COVID,” Mr. DeMartino said. “We just weren’t prepared for the crisis that occurred.”

At least the left and the right can agree on something — a better health care system — even if they remain deeply divided on what exactly the solution is.

High on Ms. Witzke’s list of priorities is the opioid epidemic, which killed 355 Delawareans in 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s a subject near and dear to her heart, as she is in recovery.

Like so many people, a simple prescription for painkillers led to addiction. Hooked on opioids, Ms. Witzke ended up working for drug cartels and organized crime in Detroit as a dealer and transporter, as she tells it.

“If I truly got everything I deserved, I would be dead or serving a 15+year sentence, these charges however were all dropped and I was given a second chance to pursue recovery and a new way of life,” she wrote in an email. “After graduating from the Teen Challenge program, I became the program director and was able to help other ladies walk through and overcome the struggles I myself walked through.

“I became heavily involved in Conservative politics, working and campaigning for candidates and causes across the country. My past has made me all the more qualified to address the current issues at hand; especially since they are issues that I have overcome myself, can bring a first hand account to, and present real solutions for.”

Halting immigration and coronavirus restrictions

The Delmar native is also laser-focused on securing the border. Ms. Witzke would not only build the much-touted wall along the southern border with Mexico, she would cut off all immigration.

She’s highly critical of not just Democrats but also Republicans when it comes to immigration, blasting the GOP for not ending foreign visas. Politicians and big corporations have sold out American workers, letting people from other countries take good jobs here, she has said.

“America now imports ONE MILLION legal immigrants every year, on top of at least ONE MILLION illegal aliens,” Ms. Witzke’s website warns.

Ideally, she wrote in an email, the country would not bring in any foreign workers “until every American who wants a job has a job.”

Both candidates say it’s time to move forward with the COVID recovery process in Delaware, which has essentially been in a holding pattern for the past two months.

“There are so many personal issues that have collateral damage from all these quarantines,” Mr. DeMartino said. “They should be taken into consideration also.”

The economy will see major changes in the near future as businesses adapt to the new reality, which will likely include less office space and greater embrace of technology, Mr. DeMartino expects.

He wants to expand the Port of Wilmington and create a civilian hospital ship that can in effect serve as a medical school and venture up and down the East Coast to assist in a crisis.

“Let’s develop our own doctors, not just give them incentives to come here,” he said.

Ms. Witzke hopes to do something about the high cost of college that leaves many students tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

She also supports less involvement in foreign conflicts: “Americans recognize that we have current issues here that need to be addressed, we have money that needs to be spent here.”

Each of the two is against abortion and strongly opposed to gun control, mainstream GOP positions. Echoing President Trump’s warnings, they’re also worried mail-in voting could lead to fraud.

In July’s presidential primary, Delaware Democrats cast slightly more ballots by mail than in person. About 70% of Republican votes, in contrast, came at a physical polling place. Whether that same pattern holds up Sept. 15 remains to be seen, but some sort of disparity is likely.