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.

Competing views on manufacturing

As a follow up and way to revise and extend remarks on Friday’s post about the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I decided to dig a little bit more into who they are and what they are proposing. The idea of “Made in America” is a sound one, for a number of reasons, but as I pointed out the AAM seems to have many of its eggs in the protectionist basket. To some extent, they have a case: even their attempt to furnish their Washington, D.C. office with exclusively American-made goods fell a little short:

Our tour began in one of the small offices, where (AAM executive director Scott) Paul showed off a desk from Washington state. But things took a turn downhill from there, when we got to the products on the desk.

“You can’t find phones, video display terminals,” says Paul. “I mean, none of that is American-made.” Paul couldn’t find American-made computers, either, though that may change following Apple’s announcement that it plans to make some Macs in the United States.

But then I found an entire AAM-backed legislative agenda, for which they linked to this subpage on the website of Delaware’s junior Senator Chris Coons. In it, we find a number of top-down legislative proposals in the areas of skills training, exports, access to capital, and “conditions necessary for growth.” At the time of its last update, about half of these proposals hadn’t been introduced as bills, with the last introduced bill being S.1400 in July of this year – either the website is not often updated or these proposals have languished on the back burner of a do-nothing, obstructionist Senate. This to me is quite telling as most of the sponsors are Democrats, who have the majority in the body.

It should be pointed out, too, that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is the brainchild of the United Steelworkers union and a “select group of America’s leading manufacturers.” The list of this select group isn’t widely disseminated, but the AAM describes that:

Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, and CEOs of Steelworker-represented manufacturers understood that. These leaders launched AAM in 2007 to build on the success of the “Stand Up For Steel” coalition.

The roots of that coalition date back to the 1990s, so this fight is an old one under a relatively new name since the AAM was founded in 2007. Essentially it’s a union partnership with the closed shops under its wing; a business-labor pact in name only.

Now that you understand its roots, it becomes more clear why they prescribe their menu of solutions. The steel industry is long known as a bastion of protectionism, given the charges of foreign steel dumping a decade or so back.

So are there any other solutions out there? The competing group to AAM is the National Association of Manufacturers, a group whose board is representative of over 200 industrial leaders. Their vision is somewhat different than that of the union-backed organization, although there are elements of protectionism and top-down dictates in their plan as well. Most worrisome to me is their advocacy for immigration reform, which is needed but must be done in such a manner that law-breaking is not rewarded at the expense of those who went about it in the correct manner.

Yet NAM makes one sound point:

Because of our tax, tort, energy and regulatory policies, it is 20 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than it is in the countries that are our nine largest trading partners — and that excludes the cost of labor.

And it’s not like the problem is new, particularly here in Maryland. I mentioned Friday that Ron George is perhaps the gubernatorial candidate most attuned to the problem (David Craig has his own plan as well), although all but one of the players involved at the time had their say at an October manufacturing summit. Moreover, outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley was even forced to pay lip service to the issue.

But we have had this discussion for several years, and the prescriptions which were suggested a half-decade ago languished on the bookshelf while Maryland developed a growing reputation as a state hostile to business. It’s sort of strange that what I wrote on Friday – as a person who had never seen this report – nailed their first point about “a competitive and stable business environment.” They also talked about the need for a “balanced approach” to energy rather than the heavy emphasis on renewables, which is another pet peeve of mine. (Little did they know at the time the report was compiled – just five short years ago – that America and a portion of Maryland were sitting on an energy gold mine.)

In short, the solutions to the problem seem to be there and many fall into the conservative, pro-liberty camp. If we tell the radical environmentalists and regulators to go pound sand because we have work to do, chances are more of us would indeed have more work to do and more prosperity to spread around.

A chance to speak out

August is the time when official Washington shuts down, the tourists take over, and those who represent us return to their respective districts. Many use the opportunity to host townhall meetings in an effort to hear from and interact with his or her constituents.

But I’m fairly willing to bet that, aside from the possible exception of Andy Harris, you won’t hear a much more conservative voice conducting a townhall meeting than former Senator Jim DeMint, and you won’t have to travel to South Carolina or the fetid swamp of Washington, D.C. to attend. As part of Heritage Action and their proactive fight against Obamacare, the former Senator will be appearing in Joe Biden’s old stomping grounds of Wilmington, Delaware.

Seeing that the Eastern Shore isn’t all that far from Wilmington, this may be a good time investment for those of us interested in how some activists are combating Obamacare.

I suspect the number of former Senators will outnumber the number of current Delaware Senators at the meeting. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tom Carper, Chris Coons, and Rep. John Carney counter-program with their own meetings that night, just to try and divide and conquer the Delaware opposition, such as the 9/12 Delaware Patriots.

Too bad there’s a lot of First State residents who agree with DeMint and Heritage Action.

Friday night videos episode 48

It’s back again, with something new at the end.

We are coming to an election where the most important number is in doubt: is the unemployment rate really 9.6% as the government says or 10.1% as Gallup postulates? Americans for Limited Government thinks they have an answer.

But the group Bankrupting America says neither figure tells the story.

Maybe one solution would be to stop regulating us to death? Ben Lieberman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains on FOX News.

Yet our elected leadership simply doesn’t get it. They create straw men to pass blame to, for one.

Yes, that was recorded at Obama’s Bowie State appearance. Do you think the man has that feeling about someone like moveon.org?

I don’t think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gets it either. Ron Futrell of Liberty.org tells the story.

In the most recent Freedom Minute, Renee Giachino describes how liberals are running scared.

The guy who should be running scared is Chris Coons; otherwise Delaware voters may be the ones frightened by their tax increases.

I’m still laughing about that one.

I think over the next two weeks I’m going to devote my FNV series to candidate videos – not necessarily the ones done by other media outlets who may or may not have their own agenda, but done by the candidates themselves. Here’s an example from County Executive hopeful Joe Ollinger.

Okay, time to shift gears. Last weekend I was at the Good Beer Festival and I brought my camera. This is an up-and-coming young local band called Naylor Mill. (With a name like that, they have to be local.)

The sound is just a touch overmodulated on the video (it sounded better on my computer before I uploaded it) but you get the idea. In a future FNV episode I’ll feature other stuff from the band.

But for the next couple weeks it’s going to be primarily candidates on themselves.

Delaware challenger receives a key boost

I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Delaware politics lately because Maryland is so busy right now.

But when a leading national Tea Party organization takes notice of a particular candidate, that is pretty big news. So it was yesterday when I got this notice from the TEA Party Express endorsing GOP Senate challenger Christine O’Donnell.

The Tea Party Express is pleased to announce its endorsement of Christine O’Donnell for U.S. Senate in Delaware.

O’Donnell is battling liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle for the GOP nomination.

“Christine O’Donnell has established a reputation as a strong voice for conservative constitutionalist principles consistent with the ideals of the tea party movement,” said Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express and one of the founding activists of the modern tea party movement.

In contrast, Mike Castle has proven himself to be one of the most liberal establishment Republicans who has repeatedly turned against conservatives and those in the tea party movement.

“We’re so excited to see the strength behind Christine O’Donnell’s campaign,” said Joe Wierzbicki, Coordinator for the Tea Party Express.

“We long ago announced our intention to hold Mike Castle accountable for his failed record in Congress, and now we have an excellent shot to make sure he is defeated by a solid conservative candidate,” Wierzbicki said.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows O’Donnell polling ahead of Democrat candidate, Chris Coons by a 41%-39% margin.

During the Tea Party Express’ first national bus tour, Wierzbicki declared to CNN and other media outlets that Castle was one of the worst-offenders who needed to be defeated by the tea party movement. 

One specialty of the TEA Party Express is raising money. They count among their successes Nevada Senate challenger Sharron Angle, for whom they spent $550,000 on her behalf, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, where the TEA Party Express spent $350,000. Other candidates they claim as political scalps include Utah Senator Bob Bennett, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and West Virginia Congressman Allan Mollohan. They also brag about scaring Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak out of a re-election bid with their threat to raise $250,000 against him.

But the TEA Party Express support is derived from that recent Rasmussen Poll cited, which had O’Donnell leading Coons and putting the lie to establishment First State Republicans who claim only Castle can win the “Biden seat.”

Considering the vast difference in resources between the two GOP hopefuls (Castle has $2.6 million on hand compared to just a shade under $70,000 for O’Donnell) it’s clear that Christine has a big hill to climb. Luckily, Delaware is a small state and the media dynamics are unique because Delaware shares television markets with adjacent states which are also busy with spirited electoral races. This makes retail campaigning a bit more effective. (It’s also worth pointing out that Democrat Chris Coons has about $950,000 on hand, which in terms of funding means he’s an easier target than Castle.) Putting national resources behind her may make O’Donnell enough of a candidate to turn that seat over to a conservative Republican – only time will tell.

And if we can get a close-by TEA Party Express 4 stop out of it I’ll be a happy man.