15 contested downstate legislative races listed on ballot

DOVER — Fifteen legislative districts in Kent or Sussex will have multiple candidates on the ballot Nov. 8, part of an election that includes 52 General Assembly seats.

In the Senate, Republicans are hoping to win two seats and defend two of their own, flipping control of the chamber for the first time in 44 years.

GOP lawmakers and officials have gushed about the field, expressing hope their slate of younger candidates can unseat the incumbents and shift the balance of power in the state, even though registration numbers favor the sitting Democrats in all four districts.

Of the six total contested Senate seats, only two are below the canal.

In the Kent- and Sussex-spanning 14th Senate District, Sen. Bruce Ennis, a Smyrna Democrat, will meet Republican businessman Carl Pace. In the 20th District, located in the state’s southeast corner, Sen. Gerald Hocker, an Ocean View Republican, is opposed by Perry Mitchell.

vote-logo-2016Up north, District, Harris McDowell, who has served in the Senate for a record 40 years, will have to hold off police officer James Spadola for the Wilmington-area 1st District.

Elsewhere in New Castle, incumbent Democrats Dave Sokola and Patricia Blevins are challenged by Meredith Chapman and Anthony Delcollo, respectively.

Ms. Chapman handles social media at the University of Delaware, making her a fitting candidate for the Newark-area 8th District. Mr. Delcollo, a lawyer, hopes to unseat the president pro tempore in the 7th District, which includes Elsmere.

Catherine Cloutier, an Arden Republican and one of just two GOP senators with an opponent, will face state mental-health and substance-abuse worker Denise Bowers in the 5th District.

Republicans Dave Lawson and Brian Pettyjohn are unchallenged, as are Democrats Nicole Poore, David McBride and Jack Walsh, a newcomer.

The Republican Party is less focused on the House, which the Democratic Party has held for the past eight years. The chamber is guaranteed to have at least one new member, with Democrat Karen Williams and Republican Charles Postles seeking to replace the late Rep. Jack Peterman in the 33rd District.

While the seat was held by Rep. Peterman, a Republican, for the past six years, Democrats view it as one of the most likely to flip this cycle.

Another prime target includes the 41st District, held by first-term Rep. Rich Collins, who is opposed by Democrat Brad Connors.

Currently, 13 of the 14 legislative seats in Sussex County belong to the Republican Party.

The GOP is hoping to take out House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the sole remaining Democratic lawmaker in the state’s southernmost county, in the 14th District. He will face James DeMartino.

Minority Leader Danny Short has only Libertarian James Brittingham to worry about in his 39th District, while fellow Sussex Republican Reps. Harvey Kenton, Tim Dukes and Ron Gray are unopposed.

GOP Reps. Dave Wilson and Ruth Briggs King are opposed by Paulette Rappa and Gary Wolfe, respectively, in the 36th and 37th districts. Both Democrats have run for the General Assembly before.

In the 20th District, Republican Steve Smyk will try to hold on to his seat against Democrat Barbara Vaughan and Independent Party of Delaware nominee Don Ayotte.

In Kent County, Democrats hold seats in the north and west — the more populous areas of the county.

First-term Rep. Sean Lynn is challenged by Republican Jean Dowding in the 31st District. Fellow Democrat Andria Bennett, who holds the 32nd District, will take on Patty Foltz in a contest the GOP thinks it has a good chance to win.

Twenty-Ninth District Rep. Trey Paradee, one of just four legislative incumbents whose race involves two challengers, will face Republican Janice Gallagher and Green Ruth Ann James.

Republicans Lyndon Yearick, Bobby Outten and Jeff Spiegelman all have Democratic opponents. Rep. Yearick, who represents the 34th District and was first elected in 2014, will take on David Henderson. Rep. Outten will meet Charles Groce for the right to hold the 30th District seat, and Rep. Spiegelman is opposed by David Neilson in the 11th District.

No one is challenging Rep. William Carson, a Democrat, in the 28th District.

In southern New Castle County, first-term Republican officeholder Kevin Hensley will face Monique Johns. The 9th District seat had been held by a Democrat for the previous four years, and Democrats believe it can flip back.

How things develop at the national level could influence local races as well.

“The better Hillary does, the better Dems do downticket,” Sussex County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Crane said.

Stressing the unpredictability of this year’s election, Rep. Schwartzkopf said it “is like none other like we’ve seen in the state or in the country.”

With the White House and the governor’s mansion open, turnout is expected to be high, aiding the Democrats, who have a solid registration edge in Delaware.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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