Voters to decide 22 primary races today

DOVER — Democrats and Republicans will have a rich slate of candidates to choose from in today’s primary election.

Democrats will be able to pick their party’s nominees for U.S. Senate, attorney general and auditor, while Republicans can vote for Senate and House candidates.

Voters of both parties may have legislative races on the ballot as well, with some Democrats in Dover and Wilmington being able to select nominees for both chambers of the General Assembly.

Between statewide and legislative offices, there are 22 primary races, up from 14 two years ago and 15 in 2014. That does not include a few races for county offices in New Castle and Sussex.

Turnout in midterm elections is typically higher on the Republican side, but an energized Democratic base and a high-profile race for the U.S. Senate could change that this time around.

According to state Department of Elections records, since 2000, the Democratic turnout for primaries has topped the percentage of Republicans casting ballots four times, with all of those occurring in years with a presidential election. The high point for turnout over the past nine primaries for Democrats is 28 percent in 2008, when voters got to pick between John Carney and Jack Markell in a hotly contested battle to determine the party’s gubernatorial nominee.

For the GOP, the high point was 2010, when 32 percent of registered Republicans went to polling places. That year saw Christine O’Donnell upset Mike Castle in the U.S. Senate primary with the Republican base boosted by the tea party movement.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. To find your polling place, visit https://ivote.de.gov/voterlogin.aspx. ID is not required, although it does make the process simpler.

Kent County Senior Voting Machine Technician John Moller prepares a voting machine at the Department of Elections in Dover on Wednesday. (Photo by Marc Clery)

Delaware has a closed primary, meaning registered Democrats can only vote for Democrats and Republicans can only vote for Republicans.

Pivotal races

A few key races to watch are as follows:

Delaware has garnered national attention for the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, which has progressive activist Kerri Evelyn Harris hoping to hand Sen. Tom Carper his first ever electoral defeat.

Sen. Carper, in elected office continuously for 42 years, is seeking a fourth term in the Senate.

Ms. Harris has made Sen. Carper’s campaign contributions from corporate committees and some of his votes an issue, arguing Delawareans need rapid change.

Too often, Sen. Carper has voted with Republicans and big business, against the interests of Delawareans, she said.

“The people of Delaware know what they want and need,” she said in an August interview. “They haven’t been asked. They haven’t been heard and they keep getting told, ‘Well, just keep waiting.’ We’re tired of waiting.

“He has a great record but every record also has a backstory, and it’s a backstory that people are starting to pay attention to. Has he made some decisions that have been good? Yes, but the problem is he’s made a lot that haven’t.”

Sen. Carper has shifted to the left on some issues, such as minimum wage, and has argued his experience is vital.

He’s received many major endorsements, such as from former Vice President Joe Biden, the Delaware Democratic Party and some of the state’s strongest unions.

“I think more than ever we need people like me, Democrats and even some Republicans who are strong on principle but are willing to compromise on policy,” he said last week.

Both candidates are harsh critics of President Trump, a contrast to the GOP Senate primary where Rob Arlett squares off with Gene Truono.

Mr. Arlett, a Sussex County councilman, served as the Trump campaign’s Delaware chairman in 2016 and has run on a platform similar in many respects to the president’s — immigration reform, religious liberties and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Truono has identified many of the same issues as among those in his focus. He points to his decades in the financial services industry as an argument for what makes him qualified to craft policy.

The race has gotten personal in recent weeks, as Mr. Arlett has sought to make Mr. Truono’s sexuality an issue.

Mr. Truono, who is gay, said few voters have had problems with him over that and his sexual orientation is just a part of who he is.

Roque De La Fuente, a California businessman who sought U.S. Senate seats in seven other states this year, is also seeking the GOP nod.

Four Democrats are running for the party’s nomination for state attorney general, hoping to succeed Matt Denn, a Democrat not seeking a second term. Three of the candidates have close ties to the Department of Justice, with Kathy Jennings, Tim Mullaney and LaKresha Roberts all holding leadership positions in the agency at one point or another.

Chris Johnson, the former deputy legal counsel to Gov. John Carney, has not, and he has painted that as a positive, arguing he is best-suited to implement reforms.

All four candidates have talked about reducing the prison population and creating a criminal justice system based more on rehabilitation than punishment. Mr. Johnson, Ms. Jennings and Ms. Roberts all oppose the death penalty and support marijuana legalization.

The winner of the race will face Republican Bernard Pepukayi in November.

Multiple Democrats are also aiming to win the party’s nod for the auditor position. Republican Tom Wagner is retiring after 29 years in office, leaving the GOP at risk of losing a statewide seat.

Democrats currently hold seven of nine such offices.

Kathy McGuiness, Dennis E. Williams and Kathleen Davies are running for the position.

Ms. McGuiness is a Rehoboth Beach commissioner and 2016 candidate for lieutenant governor. Mr. Williams is a former state representative, while Ms. Davies worked as the chief administrative auditor for the auditor’s office before she was terminated late last year.

She was accused of creating a hostile work environment, misusing state funds and hiding information from Mr. Wagner — all claims that she has disputed.

The Republican nominee for the post is James Spadola.

Republicans Lee Murphy and Scott Walker hope to gain the GOP’s nomination to challenge Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in the House. Mr. Murphy has previously run for state Senate and New Castle County Council, while Mr. Walker was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the seat two years ago.

Among legislative races, the 17th Senatorial District stands out as the only downstate and the only Republican Senate race. The winner could have a chance to flip the Senate after nearly 46 years of Democratic control.

Camden Mayor Justin King and businesswoman Donyale Hall are competing for the GOP nomination and a shot against Trey Paradee, a Democratic representative running for the Dover-area seat. Current officeholder Brian Bushweller is retiring.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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