Dover district pivotal in fight to control state Senate

DOVER — On a January day in 1973, two Republican senators conspired with the Democratic minority in the Delaware Senate, stunning their colleagues by flipping control of the chamber.

Little did Donald Isaacs and Anthony Cicione know they would be handing it over for the rest of their lives — and then some.

While many eyes will be drawn to 2018’s statewide contests, the 17th Senatorial District may feature this fall’s most important race.

Why? Simple: The contest between Justin King and Trey Paradee could give Republicans control of the Senate for the first time in 46 years.

Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge in the Senate, but each party is putting up five Senate seats next month. Nowhere are the stakes higher than in the 17th, the only open Senate seat being contested in the general election.

With Sen. Brian Bushweller, a Dover Democrat first elected to the district in 2008, retiring, Democrats have turned to Rep. Paradee. The 49-year-old currently serves the 29th Representative District, which covers the Cheswold area and part of Dover, having been first elected there in 2012.

Justin King

Mr. King, a Republican. has been the mayor of Camden since 2014.

Both men have deep roots in Kent County and run small businesses that bear their last names, names that are well-respected in central Delaware.

Mr. King, 36, won a primary race against Donyale Hall by collecting about 67.5 percent of the vote last month.

He sees himself as the underdog in the 17th, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans about 16,500 to 7,300.

But the former Camden town councilman still has confidence and believes his reputation as a businessman and local politician can lead him to victory on Nov. 6.

“I’m definitely outnumbered, but at the end of the day I hope people vote for me as Justin King in Camden,” he said.

Rep. Paradee said he wants to continue his work from the House on a larger scale. Over the past six years he has supported legislation for a higher minimum wage, legal marijuana and more consumer protections.

“I think I’m the best person for the job because I’m a proven leader,” he said. “I’ve been working hard in this community from the time that I got out of school.”

Both candidates identified job creation as one of the key issues for them, with Rep. Paradee noting many people live in Delaware but work in another state.

While Mr. King is opposed to legislation passed this summer that increases the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.25 in two increments, Rep. Paradee has been a consistent supporter of raising the wage floor.

However, Rep. Paradee said he is content with the recent increase and wants to see how it impacts businesses and families before he will back another increase.

He voted for several gun control bills this year but said that, aside from raising the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, legislators have “pretty much done everything that needs to be done at this point.”

Trey Paradee

Rep. Paradee believes children today do not grow up around guns in the same way he did and are mostly exposed to them through video games and other media instead of hunting.

Mr. King said he will defend the Second Amendment and support harsher penalties for individuals unlawfully possessing guns or using them to commit crimes. He also plans to push for more police presence in and around Dover.

Like most Republicans, he’s opposed to more tax hikes and is skeptical of state government spending.

“I’d like to see the spending more prioritized and kind of get the answers of why we’re spending so much money and we’re kind of not getting the best results,” he said.

Rep. Paradee has introduced bills to help individuals with special needs start savings accounts and to require businesses to let sufferers of Crohn’s disease use their bathrooms in an emergency.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve been involved in, which is essentially trying to stick up for people that can’t stick up for themselves,” he said.

Mr. King said he was encouraged to run by the state GOP and felt it was “time to kind of rise to the next level.”

The primary challenge, he lamented, forced him to focus on shoring up his base rather than attracting independents, adding another obstacle in what is the most left-leaning Senatorial district in Kent or Sussex. Sen. Bushweller was reelected in 2014 with 60 percent of the vote

Voters may not be aware of the stakes, Mr. King said, but both candidates certainly are.

As of Oct. 7, Rep. Paradee has raised about $49,100 and spent $65,400 this year. Mr. King has raised $42,500 and spent $46,000. He also loaned himself $50,000 in December.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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