By Randall Chase, Associated Press
DOVER — Regardless of the winners, Tuesday’s election in Delaware will significantly alter the state’s political landscape, with voters electing a new congressional representative, governor and lieutenant governor, as well as new leaders of the state’s two largest local governments.
Balloting in state House and Senate races also will define the balance of power in the General Assembly, where Republicans are hoping to end years of Democratic rule and regain control of the Senate.
The GOP faces an uphill battle in a traditionally blue state where Democrats have maintained significant advantages in fund raising and voter registration.
“We’re outnumbered, and it’s a presidential year in which the other side just has more numbers,” state Republican Party Chairman Charlie Copeland acknowledged last week. “That’s a Republican problem nationwide.”
Still, the general election campaigns in Delaware have been mostly civil.
“This is the way it’s supposed to work,” Democratic congressman John Carney Jr. said during a recent gubernatorial debate with Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini, who described Carney as a friend and “a smart guy.”
Despite the relative civility of state and local campaigns, some Delaware voters are glad that the politicking is ending.
“All this back-and-forth, back-and-forth, I don’t even watch the news no more. I’m just glad to know it’s over. I’m sick of it,” said Deborah Moody, 61, of New Castle.
Moody, who works part time in record-keeping, plans to vote a straight Democratic ticket, albeit with little enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.
“I wish I had someone else to vote for. … There’s no other options,” she said.
William Thomas, a retired police officer, also is looking forward to the end of the campaigning.
“I can’t wait,” he said, referring to the bombardment of political ads on Philadelphia-area TV stations.
Thomas and his wife, Maria, a retired nurse, both cast absentee ballots for Donald Trump last week in Wilmington.
“He’s saying what we’re thinking,” said Thomas, who also voted for Bonini in the governor’s race.
Carney, a former state finance secretary and lieutenant governor, is making a second run for governor, having lost a 2008 Democratic primary to then-treasurer Jack Markell. Carney went on to be elected as Delaware’s lone representative in the U.S. House in 2010. But after the death of former Attorney General Beau Biden, whom Carney had planned to support in the 2016 governor’s race, Carney decided to give up the congressional seat and run himself.
Bonini, meanwhile, is making a second bid for statewide office, having narrowly lost the state treasurer’s race in 2010.
Carney and Bonini agree that job creation and public education must be priorities for the next governor, who likely will face significant budget constraints amid soaring costs for state employee health care and Medicaid, and lackluster revenue projections. They disagree on social issues such as the death penalty and marijuana legalization, which Bonini supports and Carney opposes.
Meanwhile, former state labor secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, is poised to make history in her congressional race against Republican Hans Reigle, an aviation instructor and former military pilot who served as a small-town councilman and mayor in Kent County. Should she win Tuesday, Rochester would be the first black and first woman to serve in Delaware’s congressional delegation.
In another statewide race, Democratic state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long of Middletown faces Republican businessman La Mar Gunn of Dover, president of the Central Delaware branch of the NAACP, in a contest to fill the vacant lieutenant governor’s seat.
Tuesday’s other statewide contest is the insurance commissioner’s race, which pits Democrat Trinidad Navarro, currently the New Castle County sheriff, against Republican businessman Jeff Cragg, who lost the 2012 gubernatorial race to Markell.
All 41 state House seats and 11 of 21 Senate seats are on the ballot, although many incumbent lawmakers, most of them Democrats, face no opposition.
Voters also will choose a new mayor in Wilmington and new chief executive of New Castle County, both Democratic strongholds where incumbents were defeated in September primaries.