Prescient picks

You likely remember I pulled out my crystal ball and took a somewhat educated guess at how the Delaware primary elections would turn out. If we were doing the old (ladies and) gentlemen’s bet at the WCRCC, I might have vacuumed my fellows’ wallets once again – I even got the order of the GOP governor’s race correct. But there’s more analysis to come.

I’ll begin with the bonus:

My first bonus prediction: at least two sitting Democrat members of the Delaware General Assembly lose in the primary. I can’t tell you just who but I suspect at least one will be a veteran member who loses to a more “progressive” Democrat.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Good thing I said “at least” because it turned out that four lost: Senator David McBride of District 13 and Representatives Ray Siegfried of District 7, John Viola of District 26, and Earl Jacques of District 27 all fell by the primary wayside – and only Viola’s was close as he lost by 43 votes. McBride went down by about 5 points, while the other two cratered to double-digit defeats.

I don’t expect (U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Governor John Carney, or Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro) to lose in the primary to Jessica Scarane, David Lamar Williams, Jr., or Kayode Abegunde, respectively… But watch the margins: anything less than a 50-point win by the incumbents would indicate their support is soft.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Arguably, Coons is within the margin of error of being “soft” since he only won by a 73-27 margin. He could see some percentage of Democrats stay home on Election Day as well as an erosion of Big Labor support as his GOP opponent wages her populist campaign – more on that in a bit. It’s also interesting that his percentage among walk-ups was 13 points lower than from mail-ins.

Even more soft support goes toward Trinidad Navarro, who only won his primary 64-36. Then again, he wasn’t first in alphabetical order and Insurance Commissioner is a race few pay strict attention to. Interesting to me is the fact Kayode Abegunde was somewhat competitive downstate, which suggests it’s a winnable race for a Republican who draws moderate Democrat votes. And in this case, there was only a six-point spread between in-person and mail-in.

On the other hand, Democrats seem to be foursquare for John Carney since he won by a lopsided 85-15 margin. It’s going to be the battle of the nanny state full of Karens taking on the freedom-loving people of the South in Slower Lower Delaware. (Like Coons, though, take note that the margin was quite a bit closer from in-person votes than mail-in – 11 points, to be exact.)

However, with the exception of the U.S. House, it’s possible (and perhaps the most likely outcome) that we could have an all-female GOP contingent come November.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Turned out it was the outcome. We have a Democrat party with three white guys, a white woman, and a black woman taking on four queens (in a playing card sense.) Alas, Lee Murphy isn’t Jack Murphy because that would be a natural. Thanks to the primary we have more women remaining for November than men, so I want to hear no more whining about how women are underrepresented.

I’ll begin with the GOP House race… Two years ago Murphy lost in stunning fashion to the tree-killing campaign of one R. Scott Walker, but I think this time Lee gets the brass ring. It feels like a 60-40 type race to me, so I’ll figure Murphy 61, Morris 39. I would not be surprised, however, to see this be a 10-15% undervote compared to the governor’s race.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

I was well off on this one in that Murphy wasn’t as uninspiring as I believed. Not only did he outperform my guess by a full 13 points (winning in a crushing 74-26 rout) but his race’s undervote was only about 6% compared to the governor’s race.

Another two-person race is the U.S. Senate race, which pits Lauren Witzke against James DeMartino… This is going to be a test to see just how effective a party endorsement can be. I suspect it’s going to be enough for DeMartino to make it a close race but I think Lauren will win in the end by a 52-48 margin. Witzke may have to win this race without much more than token support from her party – there may be a “Republicans for Coons” group out there if she wins because she ties so closely with Donald Trump and surely Delaware has some percentage of #NeverTrump rear guard people out there.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

At one point in the count I thought DeMartino was going to pull the upset. It’s very interesting the disparity between mail-in votes and ballots cast in person in this race. If you looked at the absentee results, DeMartino was comfortably ahead as he got 59% of those cards, so early on it was a race he was leading. Unfortunately for him, the majority of Republicans voted in person and Lauren received nearly 62% of the in-person vote. (I don’t know how much in-person campaigning he did on Election Day but I guess Lauren was all over and it paid off.)

It turned out I was about five points off as Witzke won 57-43. As for the remaining prediction, I’m already seeing the media angle as the Christine O’Donnell theme was prevalent in the coverage as was commentary about Qanon, which obviously is going to become an issue in this race. The slant is in: Witzke is the “controversial” candidate with views out of the mainstream while Coons is the moderate, bipartisan voice of reason – never mind his campaign has been crying “orange man bad” on a daily basis.

And last but not least, the big one:

But I think the turnout for this election will be much better than the usual 15-20 percent… This race has a ton of interest so I believe we may get 50,000 total votes and I don’t see Walker receiving more than about 6-8,000 of them.

If Walker indeed comes to that estimate, he will easily pass two of his competitors – David Graham, who I see at about 5% of the vote, and David Bosco, who seems to be two to three points higher than that. Those kind of numbers may be enough to vault Walker to third place past Bryant Richardson.

All this leaves about 60% of the vote to be split somehow between Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. Colin got 21,150 votes in his 2016 primary and if he does it again he wins going away…

I know Bonini is hitting the direct mail hard but there’s probably a good percentage of voters who mailed in ballots. Moreover, there’s perhaps the thought that a rematch of a 2016 race where the GOP got smacked by 20 points up and down the line isn’t appealing to these victory-starved voters. So this is how I see the gubernatorial primary coming out: Murray 30, Bonini 28, Richardson 15, Walker 14, Bosco 8, Graham 5.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Overall turnout was 32.26%, which is about unheard of for a Delaware primary. Perhaps having the mail-in option gooses turnout as well, so I don’t think the practice is going away anytime soon.

Scott Walker, in fact, received 3,998 votes. Why I don’t know. And for the longest time he was running neck-and-neck with Bryant Richardson for third place, as I predicted. In fact, I had the order of finish just right – and aside from the top two being so far apart, rather proportional to my guess.

But had the balloting been exclusively mail-in, Colin Bonini would have had his rematch. Out of that group of voters, he won by 6 points but was swamped enough by those who actually showed up to vote that he lost by 6 points. And given the fact that Julianne Murray was the one who got most of the benefit from the open polls – David Bosco also increased his share slightly from mail-in to in-person – it appears that she got most of the late-deciders. I believe the media coverage (and campaign funding) pushed it into a two-way race and voters who were going to go for Richardson or Walker saw the futility of their vote and decided on the outsider. I think that’s why I overestimated their share, although proportionately I wasn’t in all that bad of shape – everyone outside the top two ended up with about half of what I assumed they’d get, except Bosco. Had Dave had more money, he may have pulled enough votes from his fellow outsider Murray to throw the election Bonini’s way – but we will never know.

The only thing I really messed up was in saying Bonini’s 2016 vote total would hold. Murray beat it by about 1,700 votes so I guess I’ll have to buff out that chip in the crystal before November comes.

Fearless forecasts

As my Delaware friends are likely well aware, tomorrow is primary day in the state: Republicans and Democrats will (or perhaps already have, given the misplaced emphasis on mail-in balloting) narrow down their respective fields for Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. As an added bonus, Democrats around the state will get to eliminate one candidate for insurance commissioner and several contestants vying in primary battles for local legislative races. (My first bonus prediction: at least two sitting Democrat members of the Delaware General Assembly lose in the primary. I can’t tell you just who but I suspect at least one will be a veteran member who loses to a more “progressive” Democrat.)

Since I’ve already began with the majority party in the state, I may as well continue working through their races. All five statewide Democrat candidates are seeking another term; however, only Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester escaped a primary challenger. The three men running again (U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Governor John Carney, and Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro) weren’t so fortunate.

I don’t expect any of them to lose in the primary to Jessica Scarane, David Lamar Williams, Jr., or Kayode Abegunde, respectively. (Interesting that Democrats would keep three white men and reject a woman and two people of color, eh?) But watch the margins: anything less than a 50-point win by the incumbents would indicate their support is soft. The question at that point would be whether it’s because the incumbents are insufficiently left-leaning for the Democrat electorate or whether rank-and-file Democrats don’t like the incumbent and would be open to the right challenger.

(Worth noting: although the Green Party appears to have ballot access in Delaware, there are no candidates who have filed under that banner. So there is nothing to the left of the Democrats on the November ballot.)

And then we have the Republicans. Out of those same five statewide offices, it’s once again ladies who have the clear path: Donyale Hall for lieutenant governor and Dr. Julia Pillsbury for insurance commissioner. However, with the exception of the U.S. House, it’s possible (and perhaps the most likely outcome) that we could have an all-female GOP contingent come November.

I’ll begin with the GOP House race, which is going to be pretty much a name recognition race. Thanks to some health issues and a lack of funding, Matthew Morris is probably not well-known enough to defeat Lee Murphy. Two years ago Murphy lost in stunning fashion to the tree-killing campaign of one R. Scott Walker, but I think this time Lee gets the brass ring. It feels like a 60-40 type race to me, so I’ll figure Murphy 61, Morris 39. I would not be surprised, however, to see this be a 10-15% undervote compared to the governor’s race.

Another two-person race is the U.S. Senate race, which pits Lauren Witzke against James DeMartino. If campaigns were based on how hard candidates worked, it would be no contest – and it still may not be. But I get a lot of undertones out of this race, for two reasons.

One is the Christine O’Donnell factor, which I believe was the reason Lauren did not get the GOP endorsement despite outraising DeMartino and arguably building a lot more name recognition in the state. I believe the Republican party regulars were spooked by a candidate who espoused populist rhetoric like Donald Trump and came from a very questionable background. (In that respect she was similar to Matthew Morris, but his background is not nearly the factor in his race.)

The second is a platform which would, in some aspects, be perceived as well to the right of average Delaware voters yet also depended on a constituency not accustomed to voting GOP: blue-collar union workers. In fact, that comes in more as a general election strategy because many of those workers remain as registered Democrats and can’t help Lauren get through the primary.

This is going to be a test to see just how effective a party endorsement can be. I suspect it’s going to be enough for DeMartino to make it a close race but I think Lauren will win in the end by a 52-48 margin. Witzke may have to win this race without much more than token support from her party – there may be a “Republicans for Coons” group out there if she wins because she ties so closely with Donald Trump and surely Delaware has some percentage of #NeverTrump rear guard people out there.

And then we have the governor’s race on the Republican side.

My friend Chris Slavens wrote a social media post with his thoughts on the GOP race and his analysis is very sound. In fact, R. Scott Walker is a wild card in this race since he did pick up over 19,000 primary votes for Congress last time around.

But I think the turnout for this election will be much better than the usual 15-20 percent and people who voted for Walker last time out in a two-person midterm race against an uninspiring candidate may have a different choice in mind this time around. This race has a ton of interest so I believe we may get 50,000 total votes and I don’t see Walker receiving more than about 6-8,000 of them.

If Walker indeed comes to that estimate, he will easily pass two of his competitors – David Graham, who I see at about 5% of the vote, and David Bosco, who seems to be two to three points higher than that. Those kind of numbers may be enough to vault Walker to third place past Bryant Richardson.

All this leaves about 60% of the vote to be split somehow between Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. Colin got 21,150 votes in his 2016 primary and if he does it again he wins going away. But I don’t see that because, while Lacey Lafferty in 2016 was a sort of precursor to the type of candidate Lauren Witzke is this year (in a completely different race), Julianne Murray is not running a populist Trumpian campaign. Traditional Republicans, especially in Sussex County, may also peel off their former Bonini support to his fellow Senator Richardson – I think Bryant’s presence in the race takes away far more from Bonini than anyone else so you can take that 15% out of Colin’s column. If so, suddenly Bonini’s at 27% and he’s a loser.

I know Bonini is hitting the direct mail hard but there’s probably a good percentage of voters who mailed in ballots. Moreover, there’s perhaps the thought that a rematch of a 2016 race where the GOP got smacked by 20 points up and down the line isn’t appealing to these victory-starved voters. So this is how I see the gubernatorial primary coming out: Murray 30, Bonini 28, Richardson 15, Walker 14, Bosco 8, Graham 5.

We’ll probably know late Tuesday night whether my crystal ball is prescient or cloudy. But I’ll be glad to clear my sidebar and start working in other candidates to my dossiers.

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 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.

Gazing northward at a campaign

With Maryland’s primary in the rear-view mirror and the fields all set, the timing of Delaware’s filing deadline was good for my purposes. By the time they have their September 6 primary, the campaigns will be in full swing in both states.

Unlike Maryland, Delaware doesn’t have a gubernatorial election this year, as Democrat John Carney is in place until 2020. I would expect him to begin his re-election campaign in the early stages of 2019; in the meantime there are three state government offices up for grabs there: Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Auditor. (The offices are self-explanatory; in Delaware the Treasurer serves the same purpose as Maryland’s Comptroller.)

Since incumbent Delaware AG Matt Denn (a Democrat) is not seeking another term, the race is wide open. Given the perception Delaware is a Democrat-run state, there are four Democrats seeking to succeed Denn while only one Republican is running. On the Democratic side we have:

  • Kathy Jennings of Wilmington, who most recently served as Chief Administrative Officer of New Castle County but has also served as Chief Deputy AG in the past.
  • Chris Johnson of Wilmington, a private-practice attorney who has specialized in fighting voter suppression, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Delaware Center for Justice.
  • Tim Mullaney of Dover, currently the Director of Labor Services for the National Fraternal Order of Police but was Jennings’ predecessor as Chief Administrative Officer of New Castle County.
  • LaKresha Roberts of Wilmington, the current Chief Deputy AG under Denn.

On the Republican side, the lone aspirant is Peggy Marshall Thomas of Harbeson, who has served as the Sussex County prosecutor. She bills herself as the first Delaware woman to serve 30 years as a prosecutor. My guess is that she will face either Jennings or Roberts in the general election.

In the case of the state Treasurer, the field for November is already set as just one candidate from three of the on-ballot parties is represented:

  • David Chandler of Newark, the Green Party candidate for Treasurer in 2014 and a State Senate seat in 2016.
  • Colleen Davis of Dagsboro, who is self-employed “as a consultant to major health-care systems” and running as the Democrat.
  • Ken Simpler of Newark, the incumbent Republican first elected in 2014. Prior to that, he was CFO for Seaboard Hotels.

Longtime State Auditor Tom Wagner (a Republican) opted not to seek another term for health reasons, opening the way for a new face in the office. The Democrats have three interested in the position:

  • Kathleen Davies of Dover, who has spent six years as the Chief Administrative Auditor.
  • Kathy McGuiness of Rehoboth Beach, a longtime Town Commissioner who most recently ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2016.
  • Dennis Williams of Wilmington, who served in the Delaware House for six years before losing a primary in 2014.

Trying to succeed his fellow Republican is James Spadola, a former Army Reservist who served in Iraq and has spent time in the finance industry and as a police officer. I’m thinking the race is between Davies and Williams.

But while these are all important elections, my focus this cycle is on the two federal races. For whatever reason, races in Delaware don’t seem to attract the cranks and perennial candidates that we have in Maryland – with one big exception I’ll get to in a moment.

In 2016, Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester from Wilmington became the first woman of color to represent Delaware in Congress. As such, she has gotten a free ride through her primary and will face one of two Republicans in the November election:

  • Lee Murphy of Wilmington, a retired railroad worker who moonlights as an actor. He’s previously run unsuccessfully for New Castle County Council and twice for State Senate.
  • Scott Walker of Milford – no, not the governor, but a previous candidate for Congress (2016) who ran that time as a Democrat and finished fifth in a six-person primary.

Most likely it will be a matchup of Murphy vs. Rochester, with the incumbent being a heavy favorite.

The other race pits incumbent Senator Tom Carper against a fellow Democrat in the primary. Carper, yet another Wilmington resident, has been a fixture in Delaware politics, serving as Senator since 2001 after an eight-year run as Governor that began when he arranged to swap positions with then-Governor Mike Castle in 1992. (Castle served in the House from 1993-2011, succeeding the five-term incumbent Carper.) Before all that, he was State Treasurer from 1977-83 – add it all up and Carper has spent the last 41 years in political office.

His opponent hails from Dover, and she is a Bernie Sanders acolyte. Kerri Evelyn Harris describes herself as “a veteran, advocate, and community organizer” who is opposing Carper from the far left. It will be a definite study in contrasts, with the 38-year-old woman of color and mother of two who professes to be a lesbian in her first race facing the 71-year-old political veteran. It will most likely be a successful primary for Carper, who will probably play rope-a-dope with his opponent by denying her the opportunities for face-to-face debates and other methods of low-cost publicity.

That may not be allowed for the general election, where there will be three opposing Carper. On his left may be a repeat of the Harris candidacy with Green Party candidate Demetri Theodoropoulos of Newark holding their banner, while the Libertarian Party runs Nadine Frost, who previously ran for a City Council seat in Wilmington two years ago. (Aside from changing the title, her campaign Facebook page appears to be in that mode.)

While the two main opponents may not be as far apart on the issues on the GOP side, they are geographic opposites in the state. And the quixotic entry of a third person (who is an extreme geographic opposite) may make some impact in the race. That person is Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who hails from San Diego but is on the ballot for Senate in Delaware…as well as Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. (He’s already lost in California.) Delaware will be his last chance as the remaining states all have their primaries in August.

De La Fuente, who ran as a (mainly write-in) Presidential candidate in 2016 representing both the Reform Party and his American Delta Party – after trying for the Senate seat from Florida as a Democrat (to oppose Marco Rubio) – is undergoing this campaign to point out the difficulties of being an independent candidate. He’s taking advantage of loose state laws that don’t extend the definition of eligibility for a Senate seat beyond the Constitutional ones of being over 30 and an “inhabitant” of the state at the time of election – in theory he could move to Delaware on November 1 and be just fine.

So the question is whether the 1 to 3 percent De La Fuente draws (based on getting 2% in California’s recent primary) will come from the totals of Rob Arlett or Gene Truono.

Truono is a first-time candidate who was born and raised in Wilmington and spent most of his life in the financial services industry, most recently as Chief Compliance Officer for PayPal. While he’s lived most of his life in Delaware, he’s also spent time in Washington, D.C. in the PayPal job as well as New York City with JP Morgan Chase and American Express.

From the extreme southern end of Delaware near Fenwick Island, Arlett owns a real estate company, is an ordained Christian officiant and onetime Naval reservist, and has represented his district on Sussex County Council since 2014. But there are two things Arlett is more well-known for: he spearheaded the drive to make Sussex County a right-to-work county and, while he’s never undertaken a statewide campaign for himself he was the state chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

Since it’s highly unlikely De La Fuente will emerge from the primary, the question becomes which of these two conservatives (if either became Senator, it’s likely their actions will fall under the Reagan 80% rule for the other) will prevail. Obviously Truono has the bigger voter base in New Castle County, but he’s laboring as a basic unknown whereas Arlett may have more familiarity with voters around the state as the Trump campaign chair. But would that repel moderate Republicans?

Of the statewide races in Delaware, I think the Senate one is the most likely to not be a snoozer. I’ll be an interested observer, that’s for sure.

Closing the loop: a postmortem, part one

I’m sure that many millions of people like me who stayed up until almost 3 this morning (yet had to get up and go to work) were of several minds: anything from watching a slow-motion trainwreck to openly savoring the bitterness coming from the hearts of the so-called “experts” who predicted a massive blowout loss for Donald Trump. And until the last maybe week to 10 days I was among that group, but it seems there is a reservoir of support Trump could keep tapping into that other Republicans could not.

That subject is one I will get to in due course (that being part two) but for the moment I just want to work through my series of predictions and see if my crystal ball has been fixed. Just as I reeled them out from national to local, I will wind them backward to wrap them up.

And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election.

I think that panned out to a fair extent. Turnout is lining up to be right around or perhaps slightly below where it was in 2012, depending on how many absentees or provisional ballots there were. Including early voting, Maryland brought out a little over 2.5 million voters. Considering the state has about 300,000 more voters in this cycle, I think the turnout percentage will decrease or stay about where it was – the timing of votes was what shifted.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

In the state of Delaware, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a 53%-42% margin, Democrat Congressional hopeful Lisa Blunt Rochester won 56%-41% over Republican Hans Reigle. and in all three state government races, the Democrats won by almost identical margins: 58%-39%, 59%-41%, and 59%-41%. Aside from an extra 10,000 or so votes cast in the governor’s race to accommodate the Green and Libertarian candidates, the Democrats’ totals were all within 2,000 votes and the GOP within 2,500.

But if you break it down by county and the city of Wilmington, you find that Hillary won 84.8% in Wilmington, 59.4% in the rest of New Castle County, 44.9% in Kent County, and 37.2% in Sussex County. The problem is New Castle County’s Hillary votes were more than the combined overall total of either Sussex or Kent County. Sussex only went 41% for Rochester, 45% for governor-elect John Carney, 47% for lieutenant governor-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and 40% for new insurance commissioner Trinidad Navarro. Going forward they need to keep statewide Democrats in the 20s in Sussex County, but that may be a tall task as those who retire there generally come from Democratic core states and apparently don’t change their voting patterns.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Question 1 got 73.6% here (so I was close) but I underestimated the statewide wisdom to some extent, as the partisan measure passed on a 72-28 margin overall (as opposed to 80%.) I was just 3 percentage points off on Question A but Option 2 managed a slight 51% majority rather than a plurality. The Democrats probably got a late start in backing Option 1 because it underperformed my estimate by 7 points while the hybrid Option 3 outperformed by 5 points. The other questions ranged from 63 to 77 percent in favor, so I was in the ballpark. Maybe my public opposition brought them down 2 to 3 percent each.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County.

I was somewhat correct with Harris. He got 7% better than I predicted districtwide, but I was correct that he did decline slightly from 2014, when he was a shade over 70%. That extra came from Werner as he came up 7.9% short of what I thought he would and Matt Beers came in 1% better at 4.2%. Here in Wicomico, though, I was much closer: Harris underperformed my guess by 1.7% while Werner jumped 3.3%. The Libertarian Beers came in 1.5% less here. It’s worth noting, though, that the Libertarians’ share of the vote has increased slightly with each election they participate in – back in 2008 they had 2.5%, in 2010 3.8%, in 2012 3.8% (but Muir Boda came close to edging the write-in Democratic candidate here in Wicomico with 5.9% vs. 6%) and now 4.2%.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%.

Van Hollen won just six counties, but unfortunately for Szeliga they included the four biggest so she was trounced. I gave Van Hollen about 1% more credit than he deserved, but Szeliga got no benefit as she was 1.4% short. All the underage went to Flowers, who grabbed over fivefold the share I predicted at 3.2%. Just as some on the right may give Libertarians the vote in a race they know is safe (I’ve done this several times in the past) I think those well out on the left figured it wouldn’t hurt to push the Flowers total up. But when Szeliga undercuts my modest expectations (to have a shot, she really had to be in the 75% range here and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore) by a full 5.7%, it’s a short wait for a concession speech. Van Hollen only lost our supposedly conservative county by 10.4 points (and beat my guess by about 3 points) but a shocker was that Flowers did about as well here as she did statewide. I thought she would be lucky to get 100 votes locally; she picked up 1,163.

I’m going to stop with that because I want to see the write-in votes for President before I comment on that race. But I will say that I am shocked at the number of write-in votes, as over 40,000 were cast statewide. I’m sure many of these won’t be counted, but it won’t be 85% of them like it was in 2012. I may have been overly pessimistic on Evan McMullin, Darrell Castle, Tom Hoefling, and so forth as they may split 15 to 20 thousand votes (although McMullin will get the lion’s share.) We won’t know for a few days, though, and when we do I will pick up with the second part regarding the Presidential race.

Regarding the Delaware Congressional race

No, I do not have a vote in this one; however, since our family makes most of its living in the First State this race is worth my trouble to talk about. Plus I have a fairly decent contingent of readers residing north of the Transpeninsular Line who actually will have a voice.

Unlike the Maryland First District race I covered a few days ago, this one will be an open seat. (In fact, thanks to term limits, vacancies, and primary election results I believe all of Delaware’s statewide races are open-seat races this year.) I will do this in a similar format as the Maryland races, although perhaps with a little less detail. We will begin with the candidates on the ballot, and in alphabetical order it means the minor parties go first.

Scott Gesty (Libertarian Party)

Key facts: For the third consecutive cycle, Gesty is the Libertarian nominee for Congress. In the previous two renditions, he finished fourth of the four just slightly behind Green Party nominee Bernard August. Gesty advised the Delaware Libertarians that this year would be his last run. Gesty is 46 and is a licensed CPA in Delaware.

Key issues: National Debt, Taxation, Education, Personal Privacy, Foreign Policy, Health Care

Thoughts: Gesty’s philosophy and run seems to me very similar to that of our local Libertarian Congressional candidate Matt Beers. They both have a relatively straightforward adherence to the Libertarian line of smaller government, a more isolationist foreign policy, and reticence to discuss social issues on their websites. Unlike the First District, though, Delaware has a Congressional district which tends to lean left (as a statewide district, it includes the urban environs of Wilmington) so the Libertarians don’t fare as well there. I give kudos to Gesty for maintaining his stance (and limiting himself as opposed to becoming the dreaded perennial candidate) in the face of all that.

Mark Perri (Green Party)

Key facts: Perri is making his first run for Congress but was the Greens’ gubernatorial candidate in 2012, finishing third of the four on-ballot candidates. He is one candidate who does not have his own website, which is unusual as he is listed as the web admin for the Delaware Green Party. He is a 56-year-old PhD who works as a clerk, oddly enough.

Key issues: Perri describes them as C.O.R.N. – Climate Crisis, Overpopulation, Racism, Nuclear War

Thoughts: In reading through some of the items on Perri (again, a slow process because he doesn’t have a typical political website) he is another who fits the Green Party mold of radical statist government – a belief system that everyone will give up their freedom to advance for the false assurance that outcomes can be equalized. One quote that struck me was, “Encourage immigration, but we Americans must learn to consume less (by a factor of 2 or even 10) resources and energy.” Why? We are the economic driver of the world, and our leadership and innovation has raised the global standard of living. That may not be a popular sentiment in Green Party circles, but I believe it to be true. I believe in American exceptionalism – not because we are necessarily better people, but we live under a better system despite the best efforts of leftists to knock it down several pegs.

Hans Reigle (Republican Party)

Key facts: Reigle has spent his career in the aviation field as an Air Force Reservist, commercial pilot, and until recently was the assistant director of the aviation program at Delaware State University. He also has served as a councilman and mayor of the town of Wyoming; this is his first run for a statewide office. Reigle is 52 years of age.

Key issues: Job Growth, Education Reform, Spending, Security and Immigration

Thoughts: Reigle seems to have a fairly moderate-to-conservative approach to issues, which begins to border on “tinker around the edges” territory. I don’t see any radical changes in government here, although he does advocate for a modest reduction in the federal budget over time. He’s been billing himself as an “outsider,” which is true, and has a unique combination of military and political experience that has long been a training ground for potential Congressmen.

Lisa Blunt Rochester (Democrat Party)

Key facts: Her career has primarily been spent in government: a caseworker for Congressman Tom Carper, she eventually served as the state’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Labor and state Personnel Director. She is 54 years old, and while she’s been involved in government for much of her life this is her first try at federal office.

Key issues: Jobs, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Women’s Health, Preventing Gun Violence, Affordable and Accessible Education, Campaign Finance Reform and Expanding Voter Rights, Social Security/Medicare, Protecting Obamacare, Public Safety

Thoughts: She gives the game away when she mentions “Lisa’s election in 2016 would mark the first time The First State has sent a woman or person of color to Congress.” I didn’t realize there was a quota to fill. And it’s patently obvious by the subjects she chooses to highlight that she is in favor of a larger, more intrusive federal government – perhaps not to the extent of the Green Party that seems to exist to make Democrats look moderate by comparison, but more than would be healthy for the First State. If voters are wise, they will wait until a more qualified “woman or person of color” enters the Congressional race at some future date.

There are also four write-in candidates: Robert Nelson Franz III, Rachelle Lee Linney, Campbell Smith, and Scott Walker. Of that group I found in a little bit of research that Franz bills himself as a “conservative Democrat,” and Walker is a 65-year-old Milton resident who is a landlord and wants to address discrimination as Delaware’s Congressman. He ran and lost in the Democrats’ primary to Rochester. As for the other two, they are not obvious on the World Wide Web.

If I were a Delaware voter, it’s quickly obvious that my choice comes down to Reigle vs. Gesty. Yet one important area for me isn’t addressed, and that is social issues. Certainly I prefer the limited government ideas of Gesty, but I also have to be mindful that Libertarians tend to be very liberal on setting those boundaries. (They sometimes forget that liberty is subordinate to life for a reason, because to have liberty you must have life. And there is truly no other measuring stick to determine when life begins than conception; thus the unborn’s right to life trumps the mother’s so-called “right to privacy” that some consider a form of liberty.) I saw Reigle supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which is in his favor, but Gesty didn’t return the survey.

So I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a formal endorsement to my Delaware friends, but if I were to make a guess at this time as to how I’d vote I would still lean toward Scott Gesty. It’s almost like my heart would be telling me to vote for Gesty but my head would say to vote Reigle because he has a more legitimate shot at winning. Let’s just say you have two good choices on the ballot and leave it at that.