Tuesday’s election could be historic in Delaware

DOVER — When Delaware voters go to the polls Tuesday, they will have a chance to reshape the state’s politics — at least in the short term,

Republicans can vote Sen. Tom Carper out of office, ending an eight-year run of an entirely Democratic congressional delegation and can flip the state Senate to the GOP for the first time in 46 years.

On the other hand, Democrats have a shot at gaining control of all nine statewide offices and can expand their party’s control in both chambers of the General Assembly.

A strong showing by the Republican Party could put the governor’s office in play in 2020, while a “blue wave” would further cement the First State as a Democratic bastion.

The election will have broad implications nationally as well, setting the stage for a divisive and heated presidential contest.

With voters on both sides more motivated than ever, turnout is expected to be high. While it may not match 2016, which saw 63 percent of Delaware voters cast ballots, it should certainly exceed 2014’s rate of 36 percent, far below the average.

Five statewide seats, 10 state Senate seats and all 11 state House seats are on ballots this year.

Both of Delaware’s congressional seats up for election this year are considered safe Democratic holds. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s GOP opponent, Scott Walker, has been disavowed by his party and figures to draw few votes from people enthused by his policy positions.

Sen. Carper, first elected to the Senate in 2000, is aiming to extend his perfect electoral record to 14-0. He’ll have to hold off Republican Rob Arlett, Green Demitri Theodoropoulos and Libertarian Nadine Frost.

Mr. Arlett, an outgoing Sussex County councilman, has expressed confidence about pulling off a shocker, but significant obstacles in the form of voter registration and finances are against him. He has raised about $174,000, while Sen. Carper has collected about $3.038 million since the start of 2017.

Rep. Blunt Rochester, who won her first term in 2016, has outraised Mr. Walker $1.204 million to zero.

Two statewide seats don’t have any incumbents running: Republican Auditor Tom Wagner is retiring after 29 years in the post, while Democratic Attorney General Matt Denn is not seeking a second term.

Competing to replace Mr. Wagner are Republican James Spadola and Democrat Kathy McGuiness, while Democrat Kathy Jennings and Republican Bernard Pepukayi are in the running to follow Mr. Denn.

Ms. McGuiness is a Rehoboth Beach commissioner who won a three-way primary to earn her party’s nomination. Mr. Spadola was appointed deputy auditor by Mr. Wagner last month.

Ms. Jennings, the former state prosecutor, boasts more than 20 years of experience in the Department of Justice and won a crowded primary in September. Mr. Pepukayi is an attorney in private practice who previously worked for the agency and for Democratic politicians. Both candidates have called for significant criminal justice reform.

Perhaps the most intriguing statewide race is the contest for treasurer. In 2014, Ken Simpler became the first non-incumbent Republican to win a statewide race since 1994. He has since been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in either 2020 or 2024, although he has shied away from such talk.

The finance professional pulled in almost 54 percent of the vote in 2014 in a bad year for Democrats. Colleen Davis, a financial consultant in the health care field, could deal a major blow to the GOP by unseating Mr. Simpler.

The battle is a good bellwether of how the rest of the races will go. Should Ms. Davis triumph, Tuesday will almost certainly be a dark day for Delaware Republicans.

Victories by the five Democrats — and Sen. Carper, Rep. Blunt Rochester and Ms. Jennings appear likely to win — would mean members of the Democratic Party hold all nine statewide seats.

Also running for treasurer is David Chandler.

While none of the non-congressional candidates can match Sen. Carper or Rep. Blunt Rochester in fundraising, three had hit six figures as of Oct. 29.

Ms. Jennings led the way, collecting about $704,000, as well as a self-loan of $34,000, while Mr. Simpler pulled in close to $359,000 on top of a loan of $150,000. Ms. McGuiness raised approximately $243,000, plus a $5,000 loan.

Ms. Davis raised about $81,000 from supporters and loaned herself $5,000, Mr. Spadola received about $64,000 and loaned his campaign $10,000 and Mr. Pepukayi’s donations totaled almost $54,000.

General Assembly

Every race matters, but on a local level, some are more important than others. Gaining one state Senate seat, for instance, would give the Republican Party a hold over one of the chambers in the General Assembly for the first time in a decade.

Meanwhile, the fates of some candidates appear to be largely tied together. With 11 of the 14 election districts in the 12th Representative District overlapping with the 4th Senatorial District, for instance, a poor showing by Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, a Republican from Sharpley, bodes ill for House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, a Hockessin Republican.

The most likely Senate pickup for Republicans is the 17th district, which is open due to the retirement of Sen. Brian Bushweller. Competing to replace the Dover Democrat are two men whose surnames carry weight in central Delaware: Rep. Trey Paradee, a Cheswold Democrat first elected to the 29th Representative District in 2012, and Camden Mayor Justin King, a Republican.

The race is one of the most expensive in Delaware this year, with Rep. Paradee raising about $123,000 and Mr. King pulling in approximately $47,000 on top of a self-loan of $50,000.

By registration, the 17th is the most left-leaning Senate district in the state’s two southernmost counties.

Another significant state Senate race is up north, where Laura Sturgeon is trying to knock off Sen. Lavelle, who was elected to the House in 2000 and to the Senate in 2012. Democrats are salivating at the thought of dealing a significant blow to GOP leadership (Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson is retiring) and defeating a constant thorn in the party’s side.

Sen. Lavelle has raised about $177,000 since the start of 2017 and loaned his campaign $110,000. Ms. Sturgeon’s donations total about $158,000.

No Senate district outside Sussex County has a higher percentage of Republicans than the 4th, although Democrats still have a plurality.

In Sussex, the 6th Senatorial District pits Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican, against Democrat Dave Baker. Sen. Lopez was first elected in 2012 when the Lewes-area district was created after redistricting.

It’s the only Senate district in Sussex with more Democrats than Republicans

Outside money has poured in over the past month: A New Jersey-based PAC called Building Stronger Communities dropped almost $235,000 last month to help Democrats in five Senate races. The group was funded by an organization designed to promote the interests of the Laborers International Union of North America.

Much like the Senate, several House races also stand out this year.

The aforementioned 12th Representative District voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, and a strong push by voters frustrated with the president could see Democrats defeat the longest-tenured member of the House. The district is the only one in New Castle County with more Republicans than Democrats, although it’s a paltry edge: 36.4 percent of voters are Democrats, while 36.7 percent identify with the GOP.

Other GOP-held House seats that could flip are the 21st and 22nd districts, both of which are located in the Pike Creek Valley area.

Rep. Joe Miro is not seeking an 11th term in the 22nd, with Republican Mike Smith and Democrat Guillermina Gonzalez vying to succeed him. In the 21st, Rep. Mike Ramone is trying to hold back Democrat Stephanie Barry.

Both districts were won by Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

In northern Kent County, the 29th Representative District is being vacated by Rep. Paradee. Democrat Bill Bush and Republican Robin Hayes are running in what figures to be one of the most competitive districts in the state.

Although registration numbers favor Democrats, those figures can be misleading. Rep. Paradee picked up 62 percent of the vote in 2016, but Mrs. Clinton narrowly lost the district.

On the Sussex side of Milford, Bryan Shupe and Don Allan are running to follow Rep. Harvey Kenton in the 36th.

Mr. Shupe, the GOP nominee, is the former mayor of Milford. His Democratic opponent, Mr. Allan, holds views that would seem to be too liberal for the district, which has been represented by a Republican since 1984, but he’s built up grassroots support and may be able to sway sufficient numbers of independents and even Republicans to win.

Slightly farther south on the eastern side of Sussex, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is facing James DeMartino in a rematch of 2016. The 14th Representative District, which stretches along the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Henlopen to the Indian River Inlet Bridge, is the only state or county office in Sussex held by a Democrat.

Rep. Schwartzkopf pulled in about 64 percent of the vote to win in 2016. A win by Mr. DeMartino would mark the second time in as many elections Republicans have sent a chamber leader packing, after the Senate president pro tempore lost two years ago.

In all, 14 lawmakers are not running for reelection. Twelve opted to retire, while two are representatives seeking spots in the Senate. Of those 14 seats, nine are being contested Tuesday.

 

Voting turnout by political party

General                  Dem #     Dem %    Rep #      Rep %     Ind #        Ind %      Total
election

2000                        214,456   42.6         171,446    34           117,712      23.4      503,614

2002                        224,130    43.1        175,326    33.7        120,360    23.2      519,816

2004                        240,999   43.7         181,510   32.9         128,475   23.3       550,984

2006                        246,149   44.1         178,655    32            132,932   23.8       557,736

2008                        279,916    46.5        181,858    30.2        140,543   23.3      602,317

2010                        293,885    47.1        183,645    29.4        146,945    23.5      624,475

2012                        300,391    47.5        181,749    28.7         150,277    23.8      632,417

2014                        305,386    47.6        179,989    28           156,777     24.4      642,152

2016                        322,481    47.5        190,308    28           166,238    24.5      679,027

Nov. 1, 2018          329,443    47.4        193,612     27.9        171,517     24.7       694,572

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