Democrats sweep statewide offices

WILMINGTON — Democrats claimed the two open statewide offices and knocked off Treasurer Ken Simpler on Tuesday, dealing a major blow to the Republican Party.

Kathy Jennings will be the next attorney general of Delaware, while Kathy McGuiness will be the new state auditor. In the biggest headline among the three races, Colleen Davis defeated Mr. Simpler in the contest for the treasurer’s post.

Democrats now control all nine statewide seats. It is believed to be the first time one party has held every statewide seat in Delaware since 1970.

“It has been a wonderful day for Democrats,” Gov. John Carney declared at the party’s election night event at the DoubleTree hotel.

Mr. Simpler, considered the Republican Party’s shining star and a possible candidate for governor in either 2020 or 2024, was seen by some as vulnerable because of the potential for a “blue wave.”

Colleen Davis

But Ms. Davis, a financial consultant in the health care field, claimed victory Tuesday, aided by strong Democratic turnout.

“We ran an amazing campaign. I wouldn’t say that we ever expected to slam-dunk win, and I think if you’re competitive, of course you want to keep that game face on, but you never really know until you know,” she said.

She said voters saw her as an advocate for everyday Delawareans.

Mr. Simpler won in 2014 campaigning as a “finance guy for a finance job,” highlighting his professional background as a hedge fund manager and hotel chief financial officer. He was the first non-incumbent Republican to win a statewide race since 1994.

Ms. Davis received 52.4 percent of the vote, and Mr. Simpler garnered 46.9 percent. Green David Chandler picked up 1.8 percent.

In the attorney general’s race, Ms. Jennings won with 61.3 percent of ballots cast, giving her a victory over Republican Bernard Pepukayi. Democrat Matt Denn, who was elected in 2014, announced last year he would not run again, citing a desire to avoid “grueling” politics and to spend more time with his family.

Meanwhile, Ms. McGuiness defeated Republican James Spadola with 57.9 percent of the vote.

Republican Auditor Tom Wagner, who was appointed in 1989 and subsequently elected seven times, did not run because of health concerns.

Ms. Jennings spent 22 years at the Department of Justice, working for five attorneys general, including stints as chief deputy attorney general and state prosecutor. She has pledged to bring about significant criminal justice reforms, such as ending cash bail, legalizing marijuana and reducing the prison population. She won a four-way primary by a wide margin in September.

Ms. McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, defeated two other Democrats in a primary race to earn her party’s nomination.

“Now it’s time to make this office relevant to all Delawareans who care how their tax dollars are spent,” Ms. McGuiness, the first woman elected Delaware auditor, told the approving audience.

The winners will be sworn in in January.

“The biggest winner tonight isn’t any one candidate — it’s the overwhelming majority of Delawareans who value inclusion and optimism over division and dystopia,” Delaware Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm said in a statement.

“This was far more than a rejection of Donald Trump and his enablers, it was an affirmation that Delawareans never lost their will to fight for the things that connect us or our collective hope for a better tomorrow.

“Tonight is not the end of a campaign cycle, but rather the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise — a promise that together we will pursue bold, innovative policies that move Delaware forward by protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, creating middle class jobs, investing in a 21stcentury infrastructure network, and ensuring equal rights for all Delawareans.”

Mike Harrington, chairman for Delaware’s Republican Party, told the crowd gathered at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino that candidates and supporters worked hard in this election and the party needed to look to the future.

“I’m laying it on the line for a little bit with everybody,” said Mr. Harrington. “You might say I’m somewhat surprised by the losses statewide… All the numbers aren’t in yet.

“Everybody worked hard and let’s look forward to the next election. I want you to keep your eyes on the ball and let’s start looking now for 2020 candidates. I really want to thank everybody for working so hard and I think it’s time to take a week off.”

Mike Finney contribued to this story.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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