If you want to change a body, you first have to run people to make the change.
The conservative element in Delaware has begun to learn that lesson with school boards, and while success is coming slowly, at least it’s coming.
By the same token, the Delaware General Assembly currently sits at 26-15 Democrat in the House and 14-7 Democrat in the Senate. In 2020 there was no net change in the House and Democrats gained two in the Senate; however, redistricting put one House district into play for Republicans and may have made Senate districts more competitive as well.
But since I like to do research into these things, I wondered how many free passes were given to House and Senate candidates over the last two decades. It’s easy to see from election information, so I was curious whether the decades of Democrat dominance have affected this. Let’s see how this worked out for the general election in these years:
- 2002: 9 of 21 Senators were unopposed (6 Democrat, 3 Republican) and 17 House members were unopposed (7 Democrat, 10 Republican.)
- 2004: 5 of 10 Senators were unopposed (3 Democrat, 2 Republican) and 19 House members were unopposed (9 Democrat, 10 Republican.)
- 2006: 5 of 11 Senators were unopposed (4 Democrat, 1 Republican) and 16 House members were unopposed (9 Democrat, 7 Republican.)
- 2008: 4 of 10 Senators were unopposed (all Democrat) and 10 House members were unopposed (7 Democrat, 3 Republican.) It was a big year for minor parties, too.
- 2010: 5 of 11 Senators were unopposed (3 Democrat, 2 Republican) and 10 House members were unopposed (5 Democrat, 5 Republican.) Still a lot of minor party action.
- 2012: 7 of 21 Senators were unopposed (6 Democrat, 1 Republican) and 16 House members were unopposed (12 Democrat, 4 Republican.) Aside from a few Libertatians, the minor parties were fading.
- 2014: 2 of 10 Senators were unopposed (both Democrats) and 16 House members were unopposed (12 Democrat, 4 Republican.)
- 2016: 5 of 11 Senators were unopposed (3 Democrat, 2 Republican) and 20 House members were unopposed (16 Democrat, 4 Republican.)
- 2018: 2 of 10 Senators were unopposed (both Democrats) and 13 House members were unopposed (9 Democrat, 4 Republican.)
- 2020: 4 of 11 Senators were unopposed (2 Democrat, 2 Republican) and 22 House members were unopposed (15 Democrat, 7 Republican.)
We went from 28 of 63 Senators in the decade from 2002-10 (71% Democrat to 29% Republican) to 20 of 63 Senators in the decade from 2012-20 (75% Democrat to 25% Republican.) Using the same measuring sticks, we went from 72 of 205 House members in the decade from 2002-10 (51% Democrat to 49% Republican) to 87 of 205 House members in 2012-20 (74% Democrat to 26% Republican.) So if there was an unopposed seat in the last decade, there was a 3 out of 4 chance that a Democrat was the beneficiary. Perhaps that explains why the state is in the shape it’s in when Democrats are spotted a couple Senators and 7 to 8 House members each election.
With a couple days left before the filing deadline here in 2022, it appears the GOP might do a little better. In the Senate, Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, and 13 have no Republicans running, giving the Democrats 8 of the 11 seats they need for a majority. The Republicans only enjoy that advantage in Districts 15, 16, 19, 20, and 21. (A total of 13 of 21 seats are unopposed right now, which would be the highest total ever.) Senator Darius Brown was the last Senator to file on Friday, leaving only two open seats as Republican Ernie Lopez and Democrat Bruce Ennis have already announced they’re leaving.
As for the House, once again the Democrats are by themselves in Districts 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19, 23, 28 and 24 while Republicans have 11, 21, 22, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, and 41 owned at the moment. That gives Democrats a 12-10 advantage at the moment, which isn’t awful all things considered – especially when the “DemComs” were spotted a 15-7 cushion last time around. The total of 22 seats unopposed, though, would match the recent high of the 2020 race. So far we know that Representatives David Bentz, Bud Freel, John Kowalko, and Steve Smyk won’t be back, with Smyk being the only Republican. (Steve’s running for the vacated Senate District 6 seat; the others are retiring. Freel won the March special election for Gerald Brady’s district that has been relocated to Sussex County.) At this time only Andria Bennett and Shannon Morris have yet to file for re-election, with Bennett’s seat attracting Democrats like circling sharks and Morris’s District 30 the only legislative position with no filings at all.
And while the countywide offices in Sussex County have healthy Republican primaries, apparently Council members in Districts 1, 2, and 3 along with any Democrats are waiting until the last minute. (Since I’m now in District 1 I’m waiting with bated breath too. I’ve been redistricted out of the old District 5 that John Rieley – who has already filed in the new District 5 – represents.)
Since I remain a member of the Constitution Party, I can’t vote in the primary. But I can see just what I’ll have to choose from come November.