Republicans choose former state Attorney General Jane Brady and ex-Rep. Deborah Hudson to lead state party

NEWARK — There was a sense of optimism and energy in the air Saturday as Delaware Republicans gathered at the party’s annual convention to pick new leadership, with dreams of big victories in 2020 dancing in their heads.

In the end, attendees selected the first female leadership team, opting to go with two names that should be familiar to long-time political observers and dedicated Republicans in Jane Brady and Deborah Hudson.

Replacing Mike Harrington as chair is Ms. Brady, who became the first woman to serve as attorney general of Delaware when she was elected in 1994. She won three elections to that post before stepping down in 2005 to serve on the Superior Court.

When her term expired at the end of 2017, she left the bench and re-entered politics.

Ms. Hudson, the new vice chair, was also elected for the first time in 1994. She spent 24 years representing the 24th House district in northern New Castle before being defeated in 2018.

The last election was a bad one for Delaware Republicans, who lost a seat in each chamber in the General Assembly and now, for the first time since the 1800s, hold zero statewide offices.

Attendees Saturday spoke of frustration with the Democratic Party’s dominance in the First State, pledging to turn Delaware red again despite the time, money and effort that will be required.

“We must end one-party rule,” Mr. Harrington told the crowd.

Delaware has nearly 705,000 registered voters, of whom about 334,000 are Democrats. Approximately 196,000 are Republicans.

Sussex County is deep red, but with more Democrats in New Castle County than Republicans statewide, the GOP has a built-in disadvantage — and it’s only growing.

As of the 2000 general election, 42.6 percent of Delaware voters were Democrats, while 34 percent were registered Republicans. Today, 47.4 percent of the state’s voters identify as Democrats. Just 27.8 percent are Republicans.

That imbalance was a huge part of the success the Democrats saw in 2018, and it’s something Republicans say they are committed to changing.

When Mr. Harrington announced in a March email he would not seek a second two-year term at the helm of the party because of personal and business matters, he pointed to several areas Republicans must focus on: recruiting quality candidates, raising money, being unified and running coordinated campaigns.

Despite intensified efforts to spread the GOP message in 2018, the party fell short of the victories it was looking for — but Republicans hope they can build on those steps.

“Our party needs to come together for a common goal: To bring balance to government in Delaware and to build and bring Republicans to elected office,” Ms. Brady told the crowd.

She noted two of the people who formally nominated her ran for the GOP nomination for Senate last year, using it as an example to urge attendees to unify against a mutual enemy. Only by working together and focusing on defeating the Democrats can the GOP, which was badly splintered in 2010 when Christine O’Donnell defeated then U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in a primary for Senate, win in 2020, speakers said.

Ms. Brady plans to expand outreach efforts and make sure the party’s message and ideas are shared in the media more, and she’s hopeful Republicans can attract independents and even some Democrats next year.

Particularly important to her goal of shifting the First State to the right is winning seats in the General Assembly. The legislature’s 62 districts will be redrawn before the 2022 election, meaning Republicans would gain substantial influence if they can take control of the House or Senate in November 2020.

Supporters of Ms. Brady and Ms. Hudson highlighted their decades of experience in politics and connections across the state, arguing the two women are well-suited for restoring the Delaware Republican Party to its former glory.

“With team Hudson and Brady, that duo, the Delaware GOP can and will persevere,” said Lisa Ramone, a delegate from the Western New Castle County Republican party.

Clearly, attendees agreed. Ms. Brady defeated Chuck Boyce for the chair’s post 211 votes to 96, while Ms. Hudson bested Paul Johnston 205 to 82 to become the new vice chair.

Jim DeMartino, who had planned to run for vice chair, was ineligible to do so after Ms. Brady was elected as chair because party rules state the officeholders must come from different regions. Both he and Ms. Brady live in Sussex County.

Running unopposed, Carol Bodine and Dennis Cini were re-elected as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

The Delaware Democratic Party was quick to blast the GOP, releasing a statement a few hours after the convention concluded.

“Today the Delaware GOP retreated to its failed past to choose new leadership — the latest signal to Delawareans that the Republican Party is completely out of ideas for how to move our state forward,” Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm said.

“During her decade as Attorney General, Jane Brady was one of the chief architects of Delaware’s prison pipeline, lording over a criminal justice system that punished poverty, disproportionately jailed people of color, and cost our economy millions. Meanwhile, Deborah Hudson was one of the loudest voices in the General Assembly’s Party of No, preaching austerity while backing tax cuts for the wealthy until voters finally had enough and sent her packing last fall.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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