Democrats are favored to win in Delaware’s statewide races

DOVER — If you feel like this election has been going on for an eternity, you’re not alone — even Delaware politicians are exhausted and looking forward to the conclusion of the campaign season.

On Thursday Delaware candidates will gather in Georgetown for the centuries-old tradition of Return Day, where they literally and figuratively bury the hatchet. But first, the nation goes to the polls to choose a new president.

In Delaware voters will also elect a new governor, U.S. representative, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.

A non-incumbent is guaranteed to be elected to all four statewide offices on the ballot.

vote-logo-2016Delaware’s current congressman, John Carney, is the Democratic nominee for governor, competing against Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini, Libertarian Sean Goward and Green Andrew Groff.

Rep. Carney is the heavy favorite, thanks to his name recognition and fundraising prowess, and Delaware’s Democratic slant.

The state has not elected a Republican governor since 1988.

Rep. Carney ran for governor eight years when he was lieutenant governor but lost in the primary to then treasurer Jack Markell, who is completing his second term as governor.

In the race to fill Rep. Carney’s seat, Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester is favored over Republican Hans Reigle, Libertarian Scott Gesty and Green Mark Perri.

It is her first run for elective office.

Lieutenant governor features Democratic state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long and GOP nominee La Mar Gunn.

For insurance commissioner, Democrat Trinidad Navarro, who beat incumbent Karen Weldin Stewart in the September primary election, is looking to top Republican Jeff Cragg to claim the seat.

Before 2014, a non-incumbent Republican had not won statewide since 1994.

The state is also expected to give its three electoral votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton, continuing its pattern of backing the Democratic nominee, a streak that began in 1992.

A University of Delaware poll released last month gave leads of at least 20 percentage points to Rep. Carney, Ms. Blunt Rochester and Mrs. Clinton.

The state’s political parties choose members to serve as the electors in the event their presidential candidate garners the most votes in Delaware. For the Democrats, Margaret Lynn Fuller, Linda Cavanaugh and Lydia York were picked, while the Republicans have selected Lincoln Willis, Reid Beveridge and Pamela Freytag.

Rep. Carney, predictably, is hoping Mrs. Clinton wins, although he expressed some anxiety about the race. Sen. Bonini, meanwhile, believes Republican Donald Trump will win the presidency, even though he expects Delaware to vote for the Democratic nominee in the presidential contest.

Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said the department and its 3,000 poll workers are fully prepared.

While some people, including Mr. Trump, have expressed concerns about voter fraud and “rigged” elections, Ms. Manlove is confident the state’s voting machines cannot be hacked.

They use cartridges that have to be physically transported to designated stations, and the only time the system connects to the internet is when the results are posted on the department’s website.

“I guess I can’t tell you anything’s perfect but I think we’re probably as close as we can get,” Ms. Manlove said.

Results will be certified two days later by the Superior Court. A recount is undertaken in the event less than .5 percent separates two candidates.

In 2014, Democrat Betty Lou McKenna beat Mr. Gunn by two votes for Kent County recorder of deeds but only after several recounts. Mr. Gunn appealed to the Supreme Court, which rejected his claims in May 2015 — seven months after the election.

Such a saga is unlikely to occur this year, although close races are very possible.

Due to the tumult surrounding the presidential election, a great deal of uncertainty hangs in the air. While Democrats typically see better turnout in presidential years, Mr. Trump’s candidacy could change that.

Delaware’s voter turnout was 65 percent in 2012 and 68 percent in 2008.

Downballot, Republicans are hoping to win the state Senate for the first time in 44 years, an accomplishment that requires flipping two seats and defending two more.

Fifty-two legislative districts are on the ballot, although an astounding 25 lawmakers will have no opposition Tuesday.

Among the highlights of legislative races:

• Sen. Bruce Ennis, a Smyrna Democrat in office for 34 years, looks to hold off GOP challenger Carl Pace in the 14th District

• House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the only Sussex Democrat in the General Assembly, tries to withstand a challenge from Republican James DeMartino in the 14th District in eastern
Sussex

• First-time Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, aims to keep his seat against Democrat Bradley Connor in the 41st District

• Democrat Karen Williams and Republican Charles Postles fight for the open seat in the 33rd District, in southern Kent

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone with questions can visit http://elections.delaware.gov/information/faq/voting.shtml. A list of candidates can be seen at http://elections.delaware.gov/reports/genl_fcddt.shtml.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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