As my Delaware friends are likely well aware, tomorrow is primary day in the state: Republicans and Democrats will (or perhaps already have, given the misplaced emphasis on mail-in balloting) narrow down their respective fields for Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. As an added bonus, Democrats around the state will get to eliminate one candidate for insurance commissioner and several contestants vying in primary battles for local legislative races. (My first bonus prediction: at least two sitting Democrat members of the Delaware General Assembly lose in the primary. I can’t tell you just who but I suspect at least one will be a veteran member who loses to a more “progressive” Democrat.)
Since I’ve already began with the majority party in the state, I may as well continue working through their races. All five statewide Democrat candidates are seeking another term; however, only Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester escaped a primary challenger. The three men running again (U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Governor John Carney, and Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro) weren’t so fortunate.
I don’t expect any of them to lose in the primary to Jessica Scarane, David Lamar Williams, Jr., or Kayode Abegunde, respectively. (Interesting that Democrats would keep three white men and reject a woman and two people of color, eh?) But watch the margins: anything less than a 50-point win by the incumbents would indicate their support is soft. The question at that point would be whether it’s because the incumbents are insufficiently left-leaning for the Democrat electorate or whether rank-and-file Democrats don’t like the incumbent and would be open to the right challenger.
(Worth noting: although the Green Party appears to have ballot access in Delaware, there are no candidates who have filed under that banner. So there is nothing to the left of the Democrats on the November ballot.)
And then we have the Republicans. Out of those same five statewide offices, it’s once again ladies who have the clear path: Donyale Hall for lieutenant governor and Dr. Julia Pillsbury for insurance commissioner. However, with the exception of the U.S. House, it’s possible (and perhaps the most likely outcome) that we could have an all-female GOP contingent come November.
I’ll begin with the GOP House race, which is going to be pretty much a name recognition race. Thanks to some health issues and a lack of funding, Matthew Morris is probably not well-known enough to defeat Lee Murphy. Two years ago Murphy lost in stunning fashion to the tree-killing campaign of one R. Scott Walker, but I think this time Lee gets the brass ring. It feels like a 60-40 type race to me, so I’ll figure Murphy 61, Morris 39. I would not be surprised, however, to see this be a 10-15% undervote compared to the governor’s race.
Another two-person race is the U.S. Senate race, which pits Lauren Witzke against James DeMartino. If campaigns were based on how hard candidates worked, it would be no contest – and it still may not be. But I get a lot of undertones out of this race, for two reasons.
One is the Christine O’Donnell factor, which I believe was the reason Lauren did not get the GOP endorsement despite outraising DeMartino and arguably building a lot more name recognition in the state. I believe the Republican party regulars were spooked by a candidate who espoused populist rhetoric like Donald Trump and came from a very questionable background. (In that respect she was similar to Matthew Morris, but his background is not nearly the factor in his race.)
The second is a platform which would, in some aspects, be perceived as well to the right of average Delaware voters yet also depended on a constituency not accustomed to voting GOP: blue-collar union workers. In fact, that comes in more as a general election strategy because many of those workers remain as registered Democrats and can’t help Lauren get through the primary.
This is going to be a test to see just how effective a party endorsement can be. I suspect it’s going to be enough for DeMartino to make it a close race but I think Lauren will win in the end by a 52-48 margin. Witzke may have to win this race without much more than token support from her party – there may be a “Republicans for Coons” group out there if she wins because she ties so closely with Donald Trump and surely Delaware has some percentage of #NeverTrump rear guard people out there.
And then we have the governor’s race on the Republican side.
My friend Chris Slavens wrote a social media post with his thoughts on the GOP race and his analysis is very sound. In fact, R. Scott Walker is a wild card in this race since he did pick up over 19,000 primary votes for Congress last time around.
But I think the turnout for this election will be much better than the usual 15-20 percent and people who voted for Walker last time out in a two-person midterm race against an uninspiring candidate may have a different choice in mind this time around. This race has a ton of interest so I believe we may get 50,000 total votes and I don’t see Walker receiving more than about 6-8,000 of them.
If Walker indeed comes to that estimate, he will easily pass two of his competitors – David Graham, who I see at about 5% of the vote, and David Bosco, who seems to be two to three points higher than that. Those kind of numbers may be enough to vault Walker to third place past Bryant Richardson.
All this leaves about 60% of the vote to be split somehow between Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. Colin got 21,150 votes in his 2016 primary and if he does it again he wins going away. But I don’t see that because, while Lacey Lafferty in 2016 was a sort of precursor to the type of candidate Lauren Witzke is this year (in a completely different race), Julianne Murray is not running a populist Trumpian campaign. Traditional Republicans, especially in Sussex County, may also peel off their former Bonini support to his fellow Senator Richardson – I think Bryant’s presence in the race takes away far more from Bonini than anyone else so you can take that 15% out of Colin’s column. If so, suddenly Bonini’s at 27% and he’s a loser.
I know Bonini is hitting the direct mail hard but there’s probably a good percentage of voters who mailed in ballots. Moreover, there’s perhaps the thought that a rematch of a 2016 race where the GOP got smacked by 20 points up and down the line isn’t appealing to these victory-starved voters. So this is how I see the gubernatorial primary coming out: Murray 30, Bonini 28, Richardson 15, Walker 14, Bosco 8, Graham 5.
We’ll probably know late Tuesday night whether my crystal ball is prescient or cloudy. But I’ll be glad to clear my sidebar and start working in other candidates to my dossiers.