King, Lynn, Anderson, Vanderwende win downstate legislative primaries

WILMINGTON — The Republican Party’s best hopes for taking control of the state Senate for the first time since 1973 lie with Justin King. Mr. King, the mayor of Camden, won the GOP primary for the 17th Senatorial District Thursday night, beating Donyale Hall by pulling in just over two-thirds of the vote.

Entering a cheer-filled Kent County Republican Headquarters in Dover Thursday night, Mr. King thanked supporters and well-wishers.

“I’m humbled by this victory, but at the same time I’m aware the general election is in November, and that’s what we’ve been shooting for since I jumped into this race,” he said. “This Republican party is ready to turn this state red!”

Justin King celebrates after winning the Republican nomination for the 17th district Senate seat in Thursday’s primary. Photo by Marc Clery

Giving a nod to his primary opponent, he noted that Ms. Hall was a strong candidate.

“She’s a fellow Republican and she fought hard. I’m hoping that now we can all come together and focus on moving the party forward,” said Mr. King.

Echoing the sentiment, Kent County Republican Committee Chairman Hank McCann said he was glad the primary was over.

“It was a hard-won fight between Donyale and Justin because they’re both great people,” he said. “They both would have made great state Senators.”

Mr. King will face Democrat Trey Paradee, who has held the 29th Representative District seat for the past six years, in November. Current officeholder Brian Bushweller, a Democrat, is retiring.

In the run up to the election, Mr. King said the issues he plans to push are dialing back minimum wage increases, protecting second amendment rights, increasing security and safety in local schools and supporting law enforcement’s crime prevention efforts.

17th district Senate candidate Donyale Hall hugs a supporter Thursday night at Frazier’s in Dover, where she gathered for the primary results. Photo by Marc Clery

At the polls on Thursday morning, Dover resident Alex Vaughan said Mr. King’s campaign for the 17th District seat was the first one in 35 years to convince him to become more politically active.

“I’m in the process of retiring — I’ve been in the entertainment field for 35 years — and I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to be very politically active because my trade was making people forget about the daily slog and relax,” he said. “But this is the first candidate I’ve actually wanted to stand behind and I’m convinced he’s the right man for the job.”

Mr. Vaughan said Mr. King’s success in Camden as a small business owner, council member and mayor suggests he has a lot to offer the state.

“He’s got some pretty conservative ways of thinking, not just about economics, but also in how to treat people,” said Mr. Vaughan. “He was able to get some of his ideas into the public forum in his first term as a councilman and he has since been elected mayor. He’s turned the town from a profit-lost center into a profit forward one through his practices.”

In another Dover-area seat, Dover City Councilman David Anderson beat Jean Dowding in the

Republican primary for the 31st Representative District, while Rep. Sean Lynn held on against challenger Ralph Taylor to earn the Democratic nod for the district.

With about 8,100 registered Democrats, 3,400 Republicans and 3,800 independents, the 31st has the highest proportion of Democratic voters outside of New Castle County. The 17th is a close second, with approximately 16,400 Democrats, 7,300 Republicans and 8,000 unaffiliated voters.

Rep. Lynn, who also beat Mr. Taylor in a Democratic Party when the 31st was open in 2014, collected 62.3 percent of the vote. Mr. Anderson defeated Ms. Dowding, the 2016 Republican nominee for the seat, by a comfortable margin, garnering 72.2 percent.

On Thursday night, Mr. Anderson said he looks forward to moving forward as a “united party.”

“I believe that our party can achieve a better result with taxation and focusing hard on everything that matters to the people in the district, unlike the incumbent, who focused on all the wrong things,” he said.
On hearing that Mr. Lynn would be his challenger, Mr. Anderson said he’s “very confident” about his chances. Some of the issues he plans to advocate for in the coming weeks are the ongoing opioid epidemic, local economic development and “making government work for everyone.”

Mr. Anderson also has the county party chairman’s full confidence.

“He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life,” Mr. McCann said of Mr. Anderson. “He knows the issues backwards and forwards and cares deeply. If you compare his record and where he sits philosphically with Sean Lynn, it’s just no comparison at all. Dave’s chances of winning are outstanding.”

In the 3rd Senatorial District, Tizzy Lockman defeated Jordan Hines in the Democratic primary to replace Sen. Robert Marshall, a Wilmington Democrat retiring after 40 years in the Senate. Darius Brown beat three other Democrats hoping to succeed Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, a Wilmington Democrat who is also not seeking reelection, in the 2nd Senatorial District.

Because no other challengers are running in either district, the Democratic primary was the election.
Democratic Rep. Charles Potter became the only sitting lawmaker to lose in a primary this year, with Wilmington Councilman Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha earning 59.5 percent of ballots cast in the 1st Representative District. No other candidates are seeking the seat.

Democratic candidates also won primaries upstate in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 17 and 22nd Representative districts, while Republicans were victorious in the 22nd and 35th.

Incumbents are not running in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 16th, 17th, 22nd and 35th districts.

The 17th Senatorial and 31st and 35th Representative districts were the only downstate districts with primaries.

In the Republican primary for the 35th Representative District, Jesse Vanderwende, a farmer and businessman from Bridgeville, outpolled Robert Mitchell by a 1,323 to 958 tally. Unchallenged in November, Mr. Vanderwende will assume the General Assembly seat held by state Rep. David Wilson, who is seeking to move to the state senate in the 18th District.

“I’m looking forward to serving the people of the 35th District,” said Mr. Vanderwende. “I have enjoyed door-knocking, getting to know the folks. I understand the task that is ahead of me and I look forward to bringing a conservative voice for those people in the 35th in Dover.”

Jesse Vanderwende won the Republican nomination for the 35th district House race.

For Dover residents Setirha Baker and her daughter, Alexandra, the primaries constituted a teaching moment. The duo canvassed the Delaware Technical Community College Terry campus together on Thursday.

“She’s out here on a 90-degree day making her voice heard even though she’s only 13,” Ms. Baker said of Alexandra. “The kids could have been at home in the air conditioning today because they’re off of school, but they chose to be here. It’s amazing.”

In encouraging voters entering the polling station to vote for Mr. Taylor, Alexandra said she’s been telling them about her personal experiences with the candidate.

“Ralph Taylor goes to our church and he’s an incredible man,” she said. “He’s done a lot for our family and I know he’d do a great job for people in Delaware. I’m not old enough to vote yet, but if I was, I would definitely vote for him if I could.”

Ms. Baker said her family planned to watch the election results roll in Thursday night over pizza and try to drive home the importance of democracy.

“It’s important to me to have the kids involved,” she said. “I was born and raised in Philadelphia and my grandfather showed us a strong example of how important it was to have your voice heard and make a positive impact on the neighborhood. Alexandra might not fully understand yet how the election really works, but if she can see someone in her community and church making a difference, I’m glad she can come out and support that.”

Up the sidewalk from Ms. Baker and Alexandra, Dover resident Kenneth Roach was rallying support for Rep. Lynn.

“He’s a personal friend of mind and every time I’ve ever called him, he’s never not been there for me,” Mr. Roach said, adding that he was encouraging voters to cast their ballots for the people they believe in and hold them accountable.

“I try to vote for the people I trust most, because issues are always fluctuating — problems today aren’t always the same ones tomorrow and you have to believe your candidate will address them the best way possible no matter what happens,” he said. “All I ask of the candidates is that they stick to their word and be accountable. If you say one thing during the campaign and you do the exact opposite once you take office, you’ll lose my trust and faith.”

Sussex Post News Editor Glenn Rolfe contributed to this story.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment