DelGov: Shea withdraws, throws backing to Murray

The race for Delaware governor got a little less crowded today as GOP aspirant Neil Shea, “with a heavy heart,” announced he was leaving. In a social media post, Shea stated:

It is with a heavy heart and due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to withdraw from my campaign for the Governor. This has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my life and watching so many people get involved gives me faith in our future for Delaware. Now is the time for more young people to step up and get involved in politics to preserve their destinies down the road. The division that has grown between friends, neighbors and families needs to be corrected in a way that we can spread some message of joy. Remember, tough times don’t last – but tough people do. Thank you all for your support, God bless you.

Neil Shea, July 1, 2020

In a later response to comments, Shea said of fellow contestant Julianne Murray, “Very very bright and has a great plan.”

Back in May Shea was the first to officially file as a Republican challenger to incumbent governor John Carney, who has drawn fire from the business community about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Delaware is one of the slower states to emerge from the self-imposed shutdown, a state of emergency first declared by Carney back in March and extended on a monthly basis since. Since then, in order of filing, the GOP race has drawn businessman David Bosco of Greenwood, state Senator Bryant Richardson of Seaford, and attorney Julianne Murray, also of Seaford. Recently state Senator Colin Bonini of Camden-Wyoming announced his entry, but he has yet to file with less than two weeks remaining before the July 14 deadline.

Shea’s departure changes the race in two ways: he was the only Republican candidate in the race from vote-rich New Castle County, and it leaves two non-politicians in the race against two current officeholders. Neil was also part of a trio of Millennials making their first bid for public office in a statewide race; along with U.S. Senate candidate Lauren Witzke and U.S. House hopeful Matthew Morris, this year’s GOP race has drawn new, younger faces.

Arguably, Shea was the leader in gaining name recognition besides Senator Bonini. He was definitely a contender for the nomination, with a platform stressing the reopening of the state after the Wuhan flu peaked. Hopefully he will remain as a voice in the campaign.

With four entries remaining, it’s the most crowded Delaware GOP gubernatorial primary in years, if not ever. We’ll see if any others shake out before the primary.

And then there were five: a Delaware political update

You know, for a year that’s supposed to be awful for Republicans thanks to the media-driven “unpopularity” and poor polling of President Trump, there seems to be a lot of interest in challenging incumbent Governor John Carney on the GOP side. With 2016 candidate and longtime State Senator Colin Bonini announcing another bid yesterday on WGMD radio, we now have five vying for the nomination on September 15.

In listening to Bonini’s chat with host Mike Bradley, he spent the first third of it encouraging the field to be cleared. Yet we have an intriguing grouping of folks running for the nomination – two are currently elected officials (Bonini and fellow Senator Bryant Richardson), two are businessmen (David Bosco and Neil Shea) and one is an attorney (Julianne Murray.)

But as I discussed the last time I visited the topic a month ago, Bonini was one of the few Republicans who have significant name recognition because of his previous statewide run, and that gives him some advantage. He also has a commendable legislative record, ranking as the top Senator in the five-year Delaware history of the monoblogue Accountability Project. (Richardson is third among Senators; both have been Legislative All-Stars and Bonini was my Legislator of the Year for the 2015-16 term.) But the argument can be made that he’s too “establishment” and he’s already lost a matchup against Carney. (Bonini even ran about three points behind Donald Trump in Delaware, collecting 18,275 fewer votes. That was nearly 10 percent of Trump’s total. Meanwhile, John Carney had the highest number of votes for any candidate, including Hillary Clinton.)

Since this update comes about a month out from my initial foray into the topic – but a few weeks before the filing deadline – I thought it would be an interesting idea to see just how well these selected primary candidates are getting the word out. The one commonality they all have is a Facebook page, so in strict order of “likes” we have the following ranking:

  • Neil Shea – 1,932 likes, page created May 12 (46 days)
  • Bryant Richardson – 976 likes on his Senate page, created in 2012
  • Julianne Murray – 668 likes, page created May 24 (34 days)
  • David Bosco – 466 likes, page created May 26 (32 days)
  • Colin Bonini – 108 likes, page created June 2 (25 days)

Bear in mind Bonini only announced his intentions yesterday. In comparison to Richardson, his Senate Facebook page has 2,303 likes.

And while it seems rather daunting to take on a sitting governor, I was surprised to find Carney’s campaign Facebook page only has 7,191 likes.

Meanwhile, there has only been a little movement in the remaining downballot statewide races. Besides Bonini, the only announced candidate that I’m aware of who has not actually filed for office is U.S. Senate candidate James DeMartino. Independent candidate Catherine Purcell has checked into the race for the House, while previously announced candidates John Carney, Donyale Hall, Julianne Murray, Julia Pillsbury, Bryant Richardson, and Jessica Scarane formally filed.

Just for fun, I’m also checking the social media status of the other primary races:

  • In this Senate primaries, DeMartino has garnered 414 likes since March 25, a total of 94 days. On the other hand, Lauren Witzke is comfortably ahead on that front with 4,499 likes but it’s taken her 172 days to get there. They both trail Chris Coons, who has 22,980 likes on a page created in 2008; however, his progressive opponent Jessica Scarane has only 1,846 likes on a page created last October.
  • Turning to the House race, GOP hopeful Lee Murphy has 1,875 likes on a page he created in June of 2018, while Matthew Morris trails with 1,295 likes but has only had the page active 92 days. Incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester has 6,945 likes on a campaign page created in 2015.

Since no one else has a primary just yet, I’ll leave the social media at that, except for one thing: I joined Parler the other day (@monoblogue) only to find Lauren Witzke is already there, and has been for several weeks. As word spreads about the Twitter alternative, it will be interesting to see who makes the jump. (I haven’t seen a Parler icon on any campaign page yet, including Witzke’s.)

Unless Bonini prevails on some of the hopefuls to drop out or not, this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary could be the most crowded in the state’s history (although primary election results on the state’s website only date back about 30 years.) Bear in mind also that there will be 5 to 7 parties on the ballot this fall depending on registered voter status, and some of those candidates automatically advance to the general election ballot through nomination by convention.

Some of this puzzle will be cleared up by July 17, three days after the filing deadline and the final point hopefuls can drop out (or shift races) without losing their filing fee.

A Delaware political update: part 3, the Governor’s race

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.

Late edit 5-26-2020: I have found out the Independent Party of Delaware has nominated Kathy DeMatteis of Newark for the governor’s chair. Her Twitter page tells us she is a “20 year veteran of the healing arts” and an aspiring novelist (as well as Delaware’s next governor.) They also nominated an LG candidate, which I will get to in the next part.

Also filing as a Republican is David Bosco of Greenwood. This just happened today so things are beginning to get active.