Carper proves to be breakwater for anti-establishment wave

WILMINGTON — If an antiestablishment wave is moving the Democratic party to the left, longtime U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware has proven to be a breakwater, easily fending off a primary challenger making her first run for office.

Carper, 71, trounced Kerri Evelyn Harris, setting up a November race against President Trump’s former state campaign chair, Rob Arlett, a Sussex County Councilman who beat former PayPal executive Gene Truono in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

“We need to reunite as a party,” Carper said in his victory speech.

Tom Carper

“We need to keep in mind that we are not one another’s enemies.”

Carper, who has never lost an election during four decades in politics, is running for a fourth Senate term, touting his experience and his ability to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, despite being a vocal Trump critic. He served five terms in the U.S. House and two terms as governor before being elected to the Senate in 2000.

Harris had hoped for a victory like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat a 10-term incumbent in a New York congressional primary in June; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who won Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary; and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who beat an incumbent in a Massachusetts primary this week.

Carper won 65 percent of the votes to 35 percent for Harris, who was part of a wave of young activists emboldened by the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Carper had 53,633 votes to 29,406 for Harris. The primary was closed, meaning only registered Democrats could vote.

“We’re going to just keep pushing against the machine,” Harris said. “Our voices are louder than ever, and we are not going to sit silent whenever we see any injustices.”

Harris, a black, gay Air Force veteran, ran on a platform including government-paid health care for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage and abolition of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. She tried to paint Carper as an out-of-touch, career politician beholden to corporations and their political action committees.

But Carper had a huge advantage over Harris, both in name recognition and fundraising. He raised more than $1.3 million this year, compared to a little more than $120,000 reported by Harris as of mid-August. He outspent her by a similar margin.

Arlett, the 51-year-old owner of a real estate business in southern Delaware, also likely faces an uphill battle against Carper in this heavily Democratic state. In 2012, Carper beat his general election opponent by 37 points.

During the Senate campaign, Arlett touted his support of Trump’s “America First” agenda and his socially conservative positions, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He also reminded GOP voters that Truono is openly gay and in a same-sex marriage.

Arlett has said he would work in Washington to remove burdensome regulations on businesses, improve border security and fight for free and fair trade.

He also has called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the defunding of so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Republican voters on Thursday also chose businessman Scott Walker as their nominee for Delaware’s lone U.S. House seat. He will challenge first-term Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester.

 

Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press

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