The state of a non-state, 2021 edition

Four years ago, thanks to a rant by Delaware writer friend of mine by the name of Chris Slavens, I had the idea come to me of figuring out just how a state of Delmarva would have voted. It turned out we would be perhaps the most purple state in the country based on the 2016 election and how the legislature would stack up.

But because the 2020 election had a home state nominee in Joe Biden, the state of Delmarva (or you could call it New Delaware) would have been a more bluish shade this time around – that was expected. But that trend carried over in other portions of the ballot, too.

There are a few caveats with this, of course: because the three states which share Delmarva have their local elections at different times, the results downballot aren’t necessarily congruent to a real election. But having kept my 2016 spreadsheet around I could pick out some interesting trends.

Still, if Delmarva had a statewide election, the “native son” (even though he was born in Pennsylvania) Joe Biden would have carried the state, although perhaps not as convincingly as one may think:

  • Joe Biden (Democrat) 402,229 – 53.00%
  • Donald Trump (incumbent Republican) 343,352 – 45.24%
  • Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian) 8,155 – 1.07%
  • Howie Hawkins (Green Party) 3,280* – 0.43%
  • all others 1,950 – 0.26%

*Hawkins was not on the Virginia ballot, which may have lost him about 140 votes based on how he ran elsewhere.

Despite picking up about 23,000 more votes in the twelve counties that make up Delmarva, Donald Trump was swamped by a candidate in Joe Biden who found nearly 80,000 more votes in the heretofore tri-state area – including a hefty 32,000 in New Castle County alone (where Trump gained less than 3,000 votes.) Sussex County chipped in another 17,000 or so extra toward Biden’s total as he outpolled Hillary Clinton’s 2016 effort in all 12 counties. Donald Trump beat his 2016 performance as well in each county, but in some cases it was an improvement of less than 1,000 votes.

If you recall my 2017 article, the only two counties Hillary carried were the largest, northernmost (New Castle County, Delaware) and the smallest, southernmost (Northampton County, Virginia.) Biden kept those in his column but also flipped three that were more in the middle: Kent County, Delaware, Kent County, Maryland, and Talbot County, Maryland.

Because there was no Senate race in Maryland last year, I used the three Congressional races on the Shore as a surrogate for that race as well as the one House race that Delmarva would have. When I wrote this in 2017, I figured Delmarva would have a second seat with the extra population Delaware does not have, but a closer examination of population reveals the 12 counties have 1,474,465 people (per 2019 estimates) and the average Congressional district has just over 750,000. So Delmarva is roughly 50,000, give or take, short of qualifying.

However, if the math did happen to favor the state of Delmarva and there could be two members of Congress, the most logical district split would put New Castle, Cecil, all of Kent County, Maryland, and the northern fringes of Kent County, Delaware into one district (that would be a fairly safe Democrat district despite the heavily Republican pocket of Cecil County) while the rest would be a pretty strong Republican district notwithstanding some sag on the mid-Shore, in Wicomico County, and at the southern end of Delmarva in Virginia.

As for a statewide Delmarva Senate seat, that contest would also go to the Democrats:

  • D total 380,827 – 51.64%
  • R total 345,305 – 46.82%
  • L total 3,814* – 0.52%
  • all others 7,551 – 1.02%

*The Libertarian Party only had a Congressional candidate in Delaware.

In reality, having a much larger than average Congressional district in Delaware with a Democrat incumbent easily outweighed the similar victory Andy Harris picked up in Maryland (in the Eastern Shore half of his district.) Meanwhile, Virginia’s numbers were too small to matter and as a matter of fact had a margin of just 69 votes favoring the Republican. The Democrats only carried three counties of the twelve, but flipping Kent County, Delaware helped put them over the top.

We also elected a governor here in Delaware, which gave the state an advantage in a mythical Delmarva governor’s race that combined the 2020 results in Delaware, the 2018 balloting in Maryland, and 2017 race in Virginia to get the following results:

  • D total 340,257 – 49.94%
  • R total 329,552 – 48.37%
  • L total 4,583 – 0.67%
  • Green total 686* – 0.1%
  • Others total 6,258* – 0.92%

*There was no Green Party candidate in Virginia or Delaware. As for Others, the vast majority of that came from the Independent Party of Delaware candidate.

This was a turnout election, so the advantage went to the Democrats who won Delaware in the 2020 Presidential election over the Republicans who took Maryland in the lower turnout 2018 midterm.

Yet the Democrat success should not come as a surprise: voter registration still favors them by 11 1/2 points:

  • Democrat RV: 468,180 – 42.94% (down 0.3% from 2016)
  • Republican RV: 342,597 – 31.42% (up 0.32% from 2016)
  • All other RV: 279,645 – 25.65% (down o.01% from 2016)

Bear in mind that non-affiliated number includes the 34,281 voters in Virginia who don’t declare a party. But the interesting factoid here is that Somerset County flipped from Democrat to Republican insofar as plurality of voter registration is concerned over the last four years – the only county of the twelve to switch.

The other big change in the last four years would have been a shift in the mythical Delmarva Senate, which would have gone from a 13-13 tie to a 15-11 Democrat control thanks (most recently) to the loss of two Republican seats in Delaware. The ersatz Delmarva House would slide from a 28-26 GOP edge to a 27-27 tie thanks to a Delaware loss in 2018. Talk about swing votes!

But what if there were another way? The one weakness with my method is that I have a lot of small districts in Delaware (less than 25,000 for House and 50,000 for Senate) but much larger districts in Maryland (about 50,000 for House and 150,000 for Senate) and Virginia, where the Eastern Shore is less than half a House district, let alone their Senate. So the state of Delaware is way overrepresented in this model.

Since this is my fantasy, I decided to use a federal model and give each of the counties two state Senators (screw the incorrect SCOTUS decision of Reynolds v. Sims), which means the 28 Senators would likely work out to be a sizeable Republican majority (on the order of 18-10) because New Castle County only gets two. Using a model like Delaware’s, with about two House members per Senator, the House count would be about 29-27 Republican but with a lot of potential flipping in several areas, making local elections become greatly important. This divided government would mean ideas from the GOP legislature would have to be appealing enough for the Democrat governor to become law (since there’s not a vetoproof majority in the House and perhaps not the Senate.)

Either way, it’s a fairly safe bet that, having a state of Delmarva, you would not see the radical left-wing nonsense that seems to be ruining both the state of Maryland (over the Eastern Shore’s objections) and Delaware (because there’s outsized influence from one liberal county that has over half the state’s population.) Even with the slight trend to the left based on 2016-20 results, this state would perhaps have the most interesting politics on the East Coast.

Let’s make a deal: Maryland gets the retrocession of Washington, D.C. while they give up the Eastern Shore to become part of Delaware. (Virginia just forgets about its Eastern Shore half the time, anyway, so if we grabbed that, too, they wouldn’t miss it until it was too late.) We could make the new Delaware into a great state – all without messing up the American flag.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *