Blunt Rochester expected to coast to a second term

DOVER — Scott Walker has been officially disavowed by his party. He’s raised no money. Among political insiders and observers, he’s practically a laughingstock, the mere mention of his name a reminder that this guy somehow won a Republican primary.

His opponent, Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, has said the right things about not taking anything for granted but, barring some sort of act of God, she will coast to victory on Nov. 6.

A September poll from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication gave her a lead of 58-28 over Mr. Walker, with 15 percent of likely voters undecided.

Mr. Walker has repeatedly said he expects voters will see him as one of their own, someone desiring to represent the masses, and will pick him regardless of party affiliation. Little, if any, evidence backs up his claims.

He’s drawn condemnation for repeated statements and actions best described as bizarre and attention-seeking. From livestreaming an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to “fat-shaming” a model to calling prominent Democrats racists, Mr. Walker has made headlines but for all the wrong reasons.

While he describes himself as a strong civil rights advocate who has fought for minorities in court despite not being a lawyer, the facts paint a different picture.

Scott Walker

In 2016, Delaware, New Castle County and Wilmington sued him — under the name Russell Walker — alleging he ran a sham charity and housed individuals in “substandard and dangerous conditions.” The lawsuit said Mr. Walker targeted people with disabilities, addictions, poor credit or criminal convictions in “deceptive and predatory” ways and racked up 371 code violations over the course of about 10 years.

As a result, Mr. Walker no longer rents out rooms.

These days, he’s active on Facebook, regularly sharing what he’s up to through Facebook Live, typically drawing responses from people who want to argue with him, criticize him for using a phone while driving or simply laugh at him.

So, yes, it’s safe to say a victory by Mr. Walker on Nov. 6 would be incredible — far more shocking than Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Rep. Blunt Rochester has largely avoided engaging with Mr. Walker, focusing instead on key issues and on running a positive campaign.

A former state cabinet official, she was elected to Congress in 2016 in her first bid for office. She won a six-way primary — Mr. Walker was among those six Democrats seeking the party’s nomination at that time — by a surprisingly large margin and then became both the first woman and the first African-American Delaware has sent to Congress.

During her time in office, she’s focused on job creation and fostering an atmosphere of civility and cooperation. If that calls to mind another current member of Delaware’s congressional delegation, that’s no accident — Rep. Blunt Rochester worked for Sen. Tom Carper when he was in the House and when he was governor of Delaware.

“People told me, ‘The reason I voted for you was because you stayed positive.’ People actually said to me, ‘You were actually positive in a negative environment,’ and I maintained that through the primary, through the general election and even through this election,” she said.

Lisa Blunt Rochester

“It’s important to me. People already have enough to be worried and anxious about without fearing that the people representing them are contributing to that. And so, the other thing I hear, people ask me, ‘What was it like? How do you do that? How do you bridge?’ and you’ll see that most of my bills are bipartisan bills.”

Maintaining that attitude in the age of Trump, at a time when the United States is perhaps more polarized than it’s been since Reconstruction, can be difficult. But, as is befitting of the famed “Delaware Way,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said she is committed to trying.

She’s hopeful Democrats can win back control of the House to provide checks and balances on the White House and make progress on issues like infrastructure, immigration and health care.

“The president has been inconsistent, and I think that makes it hard for people to govern,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said.

Health care, she said, is the topic Delawareans are most concerned about.

She’s pledged to defend and work to improve the Affordable Care Act, and at a debate earlier this month she called universal health care the “ultimate goal.” Asked about that a few days later, Rep. Blunt Rochester noted it’s difficult to predict when there might be enough support to pass such a measure in Congress.

Among the forms of universal health care she is considering are Medicare for all and Medicare X, a proposal from a handful of Senate Democrats that would require Washington to offer health care plans to all Americans.

Mr. Walker, for his part, is not supportive of universal health care.

“Free health care is not free. We all know that we have to pay for it,” he said at the debate, describing it as creating a nation of people with no reason to be healthy, in turn driving up costs that are passed on to taxpayers.

Mr. Walker has flip-flopped on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, initially saying he supported it, then declaring at a September forum he no longer did and felt it was a “political stunt,” only to endorse it again earlier this month.

Mr. Walker seemed to poke fun at himself at a debate last week, saying he has had “what people consider a rather strange candidacy.”

No one who has followed the race would disagree.

He defeated Lee Murphy in September, pulling in 53 percent of the vote and leaving Republican officials shocked. Just two weeks later, the Delaware GOP announced it would not support him.

“It was voted on unanimously that this man does not represent in any way, shape or form the Republican Party,” Chairman Mike Harrington said at the time.

Mr. Harrington said he will encourage voters to back Andy Webb, a Republican who filed after the primary as a write-in candidate.

Winning a statewide seat as a Republican in Delaware, where just 28 percent of registered voters belong to the GOP, is difficult enough. Doing so with all the baggage Mr. Walker brings could be impossible.

As a result, when the winners from Nov. 6 gather in Washington to be sworn into office in early January, Rep. Blunt Rochester is expected to be among them.

After two years in Congress during a tense and partisan period in American history, she is still optimistic about the future, noting enthusiasm for and interest in politics has skyrocketed.

On a personal level, Rep. Blunt Rochester sees running for Congress as one of the best decisions she has ever made. She began her campaign a little more than a year after her husband, Charles, died unexpectedly.

“I tell people, this has brought my joy back. Being of service right now brought my joy back,” she said.

 

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