Kent County realtor to lead state GOP

DOVER — Michael Harrington Sr., a two-term state representative who served as the Kent County honorary chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was elected the new leader of the Delaware Republican Party on Saturday.

Mr. Harrington was the only candidate running for the post vacated by Charlie Copeland, who served almost four years as party chairman.

The new chairman said he wants to develop a more centralized party structure where candidates pay their dues before running.

“Candidates that are running in this state, I want them to realize who the leader is, and that’s me, and so we’ll work with the districts to choose candidates,” said Mr. Harrington, 71, who has spent half a century in politics.

He was elected at the GOP’s annual convention as one of three new leaders in the party’s executive staff. Emily Taylor defeated former U.S. Senate party nominee Kevin Wade for the post of vice chair, while Dennis Cini was elected treasurer without any opposition.

Secretary Carol Bodine was unanimously re-elected.

Mr. Copeland, a former state senator, did not seek a third term because of work commitments. During his time running the party, the GOP won two seats in the state Senate and saw a non-incumbent Republican win a statewide office for the first time in 20 years.

There was a sense of optimism in the air at the convention, with speakers describing a possible future where the Democratic Party no longer controls the state.

The governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly have been held by Democrats since the 2008 election, and Republicans say the state has suffered as a result.

“Dover has kicked the can down the road long enough,” Mr. Harrington said of the General Assembly in his acceptance speech. “It’s pathetic. They have saddled us with a $400 million deficit.”

Mr. Copeland, who received an ovation from the audience, praised listeners for helping grow the party and spread its message.

“You are the ones that have caused this turnaround. You are the ones that fight day in and day out,” he said.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 326,000 to 194,000 in the First State, but the GOP can flip the Senate by gaining a single seat in 2018. The party, which has not controlled the chamber since 1973, has won one seat in the Senate in each of the past four elections.

While President Trump did not win Delaware in November, Mr. Harrington believes the party will benefit from a Republican White House.

“I see nothing but he being an energizer for the party in Delaware,” he said.

Republicans need to attract independents and Democrats, as well as African-American voters, to start finding serious success, he said. He promised to use technology to better identify voters and share the GOP’s vision.

He plans to work alongside Ms. Taylor, who has worked behind the scenes on several campaigns, including Mike Castle’s 2008 bid for reelection for the U.S. House. Her father, Steven, served in the state House of Representatives for 10 years.

Ms. Taylor, 29, is an example of the younger voters Republicans will have to sway to gain ground in the state.

Despite some divides between conservatives and moderates in the party, Republicans expressed confidence their party is on the upswing.

“We are the party of the people,” Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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