I have probably screwed this series up by not saving this part for last because, frankly, this is the race most people in Delaware are interested in given this era of Wuhan flu.
But the actions of current Governor John Carney have alienated many voters who may have previously believed he was another executive cut from the cloth of the prototypical business-friendly, somewhat centrist Democrat Delaware governor. His clampdown on business activity and alliance with other governors in states similarly affected by COVID-19 – including New York’s Andrew Cuomo – have brought many voters to the point of demanding an alternative, if not Carney’s head on a pike.
To his credit, Governor Carney has pretty much abandoned his campaign mode for the upcoming election as he’s not been updating the campaign Twitter or Facebook feeds over the last couple months. Having said that, though, it’s not like he’s not in the news as we deal with the pandemic and it’s his response that will likely make his re-election bid sink or swim. Assuming he decides to run for another term since he hasn’t formally filed yet, Carney would seek to make it four in a row – four consecutive two-term Delaware Democrat governors, that is. Include two Republicans in the mix during the Reagan/Bush era and you get six consecutive* two-term governors.
(Trivia points: Ruth Ann Minner was actually a slightly over two-term governor since she succeeded Tom Carper as his lieutenant governor in the waning days of Carper’s second term before he joined the U.S. Senate before starting her own terms in the state’s highest office. *And the last Republican governor was Dale Wolf, who as lieutenant governor served out Mike Castle’s last term for 20 days in 1992-93 as Castle moved to Congress. In theory, he was not a two-term governor, hence the asterisk.)
In case Carney does not run, there is another candidate who has set up a campaign account and, since he is running on a progressive platform, may well face a last-minute party-favored substitute such as current LG Bethany Hall-Long in a primary. But David Lamar Williams, Jr. isn’t on the primary ballot yet so we don’t know.
Until this past week, the only one who was on the ballot for governor was Libertarian Party member John Machurek, but he doesn’t have much of a presence out there. Machurek has been on a ballot for most of the last several cycles, doing the standard third party believer chore of running for office to advance their views despite having a severely limited chance of success.
It’s always been my belief that, in order to have a chance to succeed as an unknown, a candidate needs to get out there as early as possible and build up name recognition. Despite the fact Delaware has a late primary date, unknowns should be in the game several months beforehand. (Senate candidate Lauren Witzke is a case in point – she filed her FEC paperwork the day after New Year’s Day, which was pretty good.) At the time I began writing this, there were only two Republicans who have active campaign accounts for governor and I’m not sure Colin Bonini wants to loan himself another $60,000 to run. I think that’s the only reason his 2016 governor’s race account remains open.
Bonini is one of just a few Republicans who have run a major statewide race in the last decade, so there aren’t many options with that sort of name recognition. Perhaps the best out of that group are the two most recent U.S. Senate candidates, Rob Arlett and Kevin Wade. Both of them have won contested primaries, as did Bonini in 2016. If one of them decided to get into the race it would be an advantage to get through a GOP primary – but, aside from Bonini, none have created a new non-federal account to run for governor.
However, in this era of coronavirus and short attention spans, there are those who believe a new face is just what the doctor ordered. In the space of a few weeks since this virus hit home, the situation got a 30-year-old former Marine and entrepreneur named Neil Shea to run on the Republican ticket, making it three statewide races with GOP millennials in them. His platform stands in direct opposition to Clampdown Carney’s, stating in part:
We think the current administration is out of ideas. That’s okay. We’re Americans. We’re innovative. We’re resillient. We always find a way to survive. All we ask is that you get out of our way while we do what is necessary to earn a paycheck.“Economy & Jobs” platform plank, Shea for Delaware website
Back on Friday night, as I was writing this, I concluded, “It’s doubtful Shea will get a free pass to the GOP nomination, but at this late date there are few who could jump into the race with enough name recognition to make a splash and secure the nomination.” Sure enough, on Saturday afternoon I learned that State Senator Bryant Richardson had let the cat out of the bag at a religious freedom rally in Dover. (Surely he can’t formally announce a run until he has the campaign finance committee in place, although I suppose that could be as easy as changing the office sought since he already has a Senate account.)
It turns out that Richardson is my state senator as I live in his 21st District; however, I have never met the man. (He did send me a form letter when my voter registration came in, so he may know my actual affiliation.) I know he will get a little bit of favorable press because he owns the Star newspapers that service Laurel and Seaford, among other places. I also know that out of 21 current Delaware Senators Bryant has the third-best lifetime voting record on the monoblogue Accountability Project and is one of only two Senators to be one of my Legislative All-Stars. (The other is 2016 GOP nominee Colin Bonini.) So I can assume that his platform will probably be at least somewhat agreeable to me.
Because it’s a statewide race with different campaign finance rules, this one may be in flux for a little bit longer; however, I can’t see there being more than two or three on the GOP primary ballot for the office thanks to the hefty filing fee.
In my next part I’ll do a twofer as I explore the final two statewide races: lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.