September Delaware primary features races for governor, U.S. Senate, House

DOVER — Delaware Democrats will get a chance to pick their party’s nominees for governor, the U.S. Senate and insurance commissioner on Sept. 15, the same day Republican voters can select hopefuls for governor, the Senate and the House to represent them.

Tuesday marked the filing deadline for individuals hoping to run for office later this year, although they have until Friday to withdraw. Delaware has a closed primary election, meaning Democrats can only vote for Democrats and Republicans can only vote for Republicans. The general election is Nov. 3.


Gov. John Carney is being challenged by David Lamar Williams Jr., an accountant who faces a very steep hill in his bid to end the governor’s run for a second term. On the flip side, a whopping seven Republicans are running for chief executive: state Sens. Colin Bonini and Bryant Richardson, entrepreneur Neil Shea, attorney Julianne Murray, small-business owner David Bosco and perennial candidates Scott Walker and Dave Graham.

John Carney

Mr. Walker won the GOP primary for the House in 2018 but was then denounced by the party in response to racist, sexist and plain bizarre statements and behavior.

Several of the Republicans explicitly jumped into the race over frustration with Gov. Carney’s COVID-19 policies, arguing Delaware needs to stop worrying and open up again.

For his part, the governor has acknowledged some people feel he is being too cautious even as others criticize him for being too aggressive in reopening. As reported by The Washington Post, 73% of Delawareans in a May SurveyMonkey poll said they approved of how Gov. Carney has handled the state’s response to the outbreak. That figure was tied for 15th overall and seventh out of the 24 Democratic governors.

Colin Bonini

Gov. Carney won 58.3% of the vote in the 2016 general election, defeating Sen. Bonini and two minor-party candidates.

Sen. Bonini, who represents much of eastern Kent County and part of the Dover area, said he has “significant” financial support as he seeks to be the GOP nominee again. Campaign finance reports are due in about a month, 30 days ahead of the primary.

Delaware has not elected a Republican governor since 1988, and GOP nominees for the office have fallen short of 40% in six of seven such contests since then.

About 47.7% of voters in the First State are Democrats, while 27.7% are Republicans and 24.6% are independents.

U.S. Senate

The Senate race figures to generate considerable attention as progressive activist Jessica Scarane looks to shock incumbent Chris Coons in the Democratic primary. Ms. Scarane has blasted Sen. Coons as beholden to special interests and too willing to compromise with Republicans, pushing a platform that includes universal health care, higher taxes on the top earners and legal marijuana.

Sen. Coons has a reputation as an intelligent and moderate politician who works across the aisle. He has pulled in some major endorsements and has millions of dollars on hand.

He won 55.8% of the vote in his 2014 reelection bid despite strong Republican turnout.

Chris Coons

Meanwhile, Republicans Lauren Witzke and Jim DeMartino will be squaring off for the right to face the winner of the Democratic primary. Mr. DeMartino, an attorney, unsuccessfully ran for the state House in 2016 and 2018.

Both candidates are strong supporters of President Donald Trump and the GOP agenda: Mr. DeMartino’s website touts “the existential domestic threat of radical Democratic Socialists,” while Ms. Witzke has been vocal about restricting immigration, hoping to combat what she described on her campaign website as a “globalist, open border agenda.”

Ms. Witzke has been open about her past as a drug addict and unwitting agent of drug cartels and organized crime.

U.S. House

In the House, Matthew Morris is running against Lee Murphy for the GOP nomination. Mr. Murphy unsuccessfully sought the party’s endorsement for the same office in 2018, losing to Mr. Walker in an embarrassing upset.

Both men have been personally impacted by drug addiction and have it among their top priorities.

Like Ms. Witzke, Mr. Morris is strongly focused on limiting immigration and brags of being an America-first candidate. Democrats, he posted on Twitter several weeks ago, are the “real modern day racist socialists.”

Unsurprisingly, the Republican candidates for office have mostly been critical of COVID restrictions and Black Lives Matter protests while supporting President Trump.

Other races

In addition to the race for governor and the Senate, Democrats can pick between two individuals running for insurance commissioner. Incumbent Trinidad Navarro is seeking a second term, with Kayode Abegunde hoping to deny him that shot. Mr. Navarro has been dogged by allegations of racism and sexism from two employees who have filed lawsuits.

In addition to those races, there are Democratic primaries for the 1st Senatorial District (Wilmington), 5th Senatorial District (Arden), 13th Senatorial District (New Castle), 14th Senatorial District (Smyrna), 1st Representative District (Wilmington), 4th Representative District (Wilmington), 7th Representative District (Arden), 8th Representative District (Middletown), 10th Representative District (Brandywine), 26th Representative District (Newark), 27th Representative District (Glasgow) and 34th Representative District (Camden).

There will only be one Republican primary for a legislative seat: the 14th Senatorial District.

The contests for the 1st Senatorial and 8th Representative districts both feature open seats. In particular, the 1st District race should draw national attention thanks to candidate Sarah McBride, who is trying to become one of the first openly transgender individuals ever elected to office in the country (and the first in the state).

Three people are gunning for the Democratic nomination for the 5th and 14th Senatorial districts and the 26th Representative District, with four seeking the party’s endorsement for the 8th Representative District.

Perhaps no legislative race could have a bigger impact on the General Assembly than the one in the 13th Senatorial District, where Marie Pinkney is looking to take down President Pro Tempore David McBride. The top-ranking member of the chamber, Sen. McBride has held a seat in Legislative Hall for 42 years.

The winner of the 5th Senatorial District primary will have a good shot to defeat longtime GOP Sen. Cathy Cloutier given the fact the area now has approximately three registered Democrats for every two Republican voters.

The 1st Representative District race features Charles Potter trying to take out Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha and regain the seat he held for six years. Rep. Chukwuocha, then a city councilman, knocked Mr. Potter out in 2018, collecting 59.5% of votes cast.

It remains to be seen how exactly COVID affects the election. Lawmakers have expanded mail-in voting due to the virus, and the impact has already been felt: About 45% of the 125,000 votes in the July 7 presidential primary were absentee.

For comparison, about 3% of the votes in the 2016 presidential primary were mailed in.

Interestingly, more Democrats voted absentee than in person, but 71% of Republicans cast their ballots at an actual polling location. That discrepancy likely owes in large part to President Trump’s stated opposition to voting by mail.