Pace seeks to unseat Ennis in 14th Senate District

 

DOVER — In 2014, the oldest member of the state Senate, a 25-year incumbent, was sent home. Republican Bryant Richardson defeated then 81-year-old Sen. Robert Venables, a Democrat from Laurel, giving the Republican Party another seat.

With Sen. Venables gone, Bruce Ennis became the oldest member of the chamber, and this year, the GOP is trying to unseat him.

Carl Pace is running against the 77-year-old Sen. Ennis, a Smyrna Democrat.

Carl Pace

Carl Pace

First elected in 1982, Sen. Ennis served in the House for 25 years before moving to the Senate, where he represents the 14th District. The district is one of just two below the canal that will be contested in next month’s election, and it is the only one in Kent County.

Bruce Ennis

Bruce Ennis

Sen. Ennis, a former state trooper, said he first ran because “being a legislator is kind of an extension” of being a police officer.

His opponent, Mr. Pace, is a small-business owner who decided to seek office out of a belief the state would be in trouble “if we didn’t take care of some things.”

Mr. Pace, 35, said the state is slumping in job creation and education. While Delaware is above average in unemployment rate, Mr. Pace believes it lacks “careers.”

“You can’t live the American dream on some of those salaries,” he said, citing positions at the Amazon warehouse in Middletown as examples of jobs rather than careers.

He believes Sen. Ennis has moved to the left during his legislative career, pointing to legislation that extended the waiting period for a small percentage of gun background checks.

“He’s making decisions now that I don’t think he would have made 10 years ago,” he said.

However, Sen. Ennis voted against that proposal and has a more conservative voting record than the other members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The Democrat cited as among his accomplishments legislation creating a coordinated statewide system in 1996 to provide care to injured individuals and a 2013 bill that protects residents in manufactured-home communities by limiting how much owners can raise rent.

Like Mr. Pace, he sees job creation as a key concern.

“The issues are pretty much what they’ve been, really, since 2008 to some extent,” he said. “The economy, jobs of course and education.”

Next session, Sen. Ennis said he hopes to remove “onerous” regulations that limit business growth, an area that saw attention this year.

While the senator is well-known in the district, Mr. Pace said he has received a warm reception from residents. He’s raised more money this year as well, leading Sen. Ennis $28,000 to $20,300 in donations.

One of the state’s largest Senate districts, District 14 stretches from just south of Delaware City to the city limits of Dover, covering communities like Smyrna and Townsend.

Democrats hold a 15,600 to 9,300 voter registration edge in the district, which Sen. Ennis has garnered at least 61 percent in his previous three Senate elections.

But Mr. Pace thinks the winds of change are blowing.

“It’s time for a new face,” he said.

Should he unseat Sen. Ennis, the GOP would be closer to winning control of the chamber. If the party can win two seats and defend two others it currently holds, it will have the majority for the first time in 44 years.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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