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.

A Delaware political update: part 2, the U.S. House race

After looking at one statewide federal race in my last post, I’m going to tackle the other one today. In a game of musical chairs that I suppose is part of the “Delaware Way”, our current governor left his seat in the House four years ago to run for the office, leaving an opening and several Democrats salivating to fill that House seat. Lisa Blunt Rochester (for sake of typing, I’ll call her LBR) was the survivor among the Democrat field and has prevailed in the general election twice, first defeating Republican Hans Riegle by 14.5 points in 2016 and perennial candidate Scott Walker by 28 points in 2018. She’s gotten a lot of mileage out of being the first “woman and person of color” representing Delaware in Congress.

However, while her Senate counterpart Chris Coons is fighting a primary opponent from the left, LBR has an announced (but not filed) opponent who would most likely nestle himself to her right, and perhaps even right of center. I have to say, though, that I have not heard much about the run of Andrew Webb and his campaign Facebook page (which is apparently the only campaign organ) has not been updated regularly.

Even more recently, a lady named Anne Kerner has filed the FEC paperwork for the House seat despite having a campaign listed as being for the governor’s chair. With that confusion combined with lack of presence – and given the steep filing fees in Delaware – it’s likely LBR will be unopposed on the Democrat side.

Also unopposed for a party bid according to the state BOE is Libertarian David Rogers, but he’s running a pretty stealth campaign so far since I can’t dig up a website, social media, or anything like that. Don’t you just hate that?

So again we end up on the Republican side, where we have a previously unsuccessful aspirant against a first-time candidate who has had issues with substance abuse. It’s deja vu all over again.

Playing the role of unsuccessful aspirant is Lee Murphy, who has tried this before – this is his (at least) fourth bite of the apple, having been an unsuccessful state legislative contender in 2014 and 2016 (he did not make the general election ballot in either case) and losing in the 2018 GOP primary to Scott Walker. (Per Ballotpedia, Murphy has also ran without success for New Castle County council, but for the sake of this comparison we will go with this being his fourth try.)

Yes, he lost to Scott freaking Walker, the guy who hasn’t yet found a tree he wouldn’t like to nail an illegal campaign sign to. The guy who was running as a Democrat again, for president. I’m sure Lee is a nice guy, and he was probably as surprised as anyone the day after the 2018 primary, but he lost to Scott Walker so what does that tell you about his chances against an opponent with money and actual personality? (Or, what does that tell you about Delaware primary voters? Maybe there was something to that 2010 criticism the establishment had.) Anyway, it looks like Lee’s running a solid if not spectacular primary campaign, so maybe he’s not taking this for granted as he may have before.

So if Murphy doesn’t have hindsight, why is his opponent promoting his? Matthew Morris promises “Restoring Power to the People” but he also has a unique backstory, including a stint in prison. But he’s promising accountability should he be elected to Congress.

Being a Congressman shouldn’t be about reporting to Washington and leaving my constituents behind, never to be seen again, or at least not until the next election time.  No, I want to be involved with ALL of my constituents ALL THE TIME .  That means, when voting on bills, I want to provide the State of Delaware with real time information and interaction about what is being passed, why it has been brought before the house, and base my voting directly reflecting my constituent’s wants and needs.

https://www.matthewmorrisfordelaware.com/platform

I must say that, being a resident of a seemingly forgotten corner of the state, it would be nice to have a representative who has a little involvement here. But Matt has a curious set of priorities: the opioid epidemic, education, and prison reform are his top issues. The question is whether Republican voters would agree with him?

If you’re not excited about these alternatives, the biggest problem is that there’s basically no time left for anyone with no name recognition to get into the race. Moreover, since Delaware is a one-district state, the House isn’t going to draw the same caliber of candidate a Senate race would get – why constantly be campaigning when you can represent the same district for six years and wield comparatively more power? We know LBR is probably waiting in the wings for Tom Carper to retire to move up, although there are probably a few other Democrats who would like the seat as well.

I’m hoping someone excites me with the prospect of improving our representation, but so far that’s not happened.

A Delaware political update: part 1, the U.S. Senate race

You have probably noticed that I have, over the last several months, kept an Election 2020 widget on my sidebar. Initially it solely focused on the various primary races for President but as the field narrowed and local filing dates passed (for a primary I assumed would be in April) I added the First District Congressional race in Maryland.

Here in Delaware, however, we have the old-school Maryland schedule of a mid-September primary and the filing deadline doesn’t arrive until July. So I don’t want to invest the time in doing the widget quite yet but there has been movement in some of the races that readers should be aware of.

Because all federal races in Delaware are statewide, I have just two to focus on this year. And because I wanted to focus on these races more in depth, I’ve decided to create a series out of the 2020 races here in the First State, with one part apiece focused on the U.S. Senate seat where Chris Coons desires another term, the House race where Lisa Blunt Rochester faces the voters for the second time as an incumbent, the re-election campaign of Governor John Carney, and a part devoted to the lesser statewide races such as lieutenant governor and state insurance commissioner. I may also do a part for the state legislative races affecting Sussex County, which has nine House districts and five Senate districts, although not all of the latter are on the ballot this year.

In the U.S. Senate race, the incumbent Democrat Chris Coons just filed for re-election this week and he’s looking for money to win a second full term – he was first elected in 2010 to finish Joe Biden’s term. Just like his counterpart Tom Carper did two years ago, Coons has a challenger from his left in Jessica Scarane. If you want proof that she’s to his left, on her campaign page is the statement: “Instead of cutting deals with Republicans that exacerbate racism and inequality, Jess will fight for policies that improve the lives of hardworking Delawareans so we can build a state and country that works for all of us.” She has the Indivisible-style jargon down.

While Coons is a prohibitive favorite in the Democrat primary, based on the 2018 result where the incumbent Carper won over a progressive upstart by 30 points, the U.S. Senate race is on the Republican side is wide open between two candidates – although neither has formally filed, both have campaign sites and both are from Sussex County. (Update 5/18: Lauren Witzke filed today.) We’ll go ladies first and introduce you to first-time candidate Lauren Witzke, whose key issues are immigration, restoration of family values, and dealing with the opioid crisis. On the other hand, James DeMartino – who ran for a seat in the Delaware House in both 2016 and 2018 but lost twice to a longtime Democrat incumbent – is pushing healthcare and jobs and the economy as his headline issues.

Filling out the Senate general election card so far are balloted candidates Mark Turley from the Independent Party of Delaware and Libertarian party candidate (once again) Nadine Frost.

Since the best action is on the Republican side, it’s worth pointing out that Witzke is a first-time candidate while DeMartino has run in a local House district race unsuccessfully the last two times, losing by 25-plus point margins in both 2016 and 2018. Perhaps it was a matter of facing the state’s Speaker of the House, but when I looked into it I found DeMartino underperformed every other Republican on his local ballot in both elections. To me, that’s not a great sign in a race that’s already a really steep uphill climb.

This is just one man’s observation, but the one who’s hustling in this Senate race is Witzke. Until just recently, DeMartino hadn’t updated his site from his previous races. Perhaps he would be considered the “establishment” choice, and he has a good resume of business and military experience; on the other hand Witzke is coming from a non-traditional background that includes her admission of past opioid abuse.

But Witzke is running an insurgent campaign that reminds me a little bit of Christine O’Donnell’s in 2010 – however, instead of a TEA Party platform Witzke is taking advantage of Donald Trump’s populist appeal with some unorthodox GOP approaches. (One thing I found out is that she is not in favor of right-to-work laws and is instead soliciting support from Big Labor. I don’t see it happening but stranger things have occurred.) She’s already taken an important step of nationalizing the race, bringing attention to a seat the GOP may need to counter prospective losses elsewhere. It’s an approach necessary to raise the funding to be competitive.

I hear so many establishment Republicans say that a campaign like Witzke’s can’t succeed in Delaware. This may be true; however, I don’t see the party establishment out educating the public about why conservative principles succeed and how they can improve the lives of average Delaware residents. If they give no effort, they get no results.

People may see Witzke as a flawed candidate, but she’s the one putting in the most effort right now and it’s pretty much too late for anyone else with negligible name recognition to jump in and have a realistic shot. DeMartino is a “Delaware Way” sort of Republican hopeful, sort of like the Washington Generals are a perpetual foil for the Harlem Globetrotters. Witzke may not be the perfect candidate but at the moment I believe she has the least long shot of victory among the GOP hopefuls.