A cloudy crystal ball

If the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be in line waiting to cast my vote when this comes up. I’m writing this on Monday night.

I guess we will begin with this, since it’s the most important.

I did an electoral map the other night which is the most likely electoral scenario in my eyes. It’s enough for Trump to win but not as much as he did in 2016 because he loses Wisconsin and Michigan in my scenario but gains Minnesota. If not for that and keeping Pennsylvania he would be out.

I also believe the Republicans hang on to the Senate but it may be a 51-49 majority or even 51-50. Can’t see them gaining quite enough to take back the House but there’s a decent chance I may be wrong. I can see enough of a gain, though, to make subsequent special elections meaningful because it may be something along the line of a 219-216 Democrat majority – which will make a Speaker election dicey.

In 2016, Donald Trump lost Delaware by 11 points, but he was the closest Republican when it came to winning a statewide race. I honestly think if he were running against anyone but Joe Biden, he would have an outside chance of winning the state but in this case I think Biden carries by about 15 points – let’s say 56-41, with the other 3% scattered among the Libertarian and Green candidates.

In this case, he won’t be the closest Republican. I think that distinction will go to Julianne Murray, who just may win if this becomes a referendum on John Carney’s handling of the CCP virus and the economy in general. This race may come down to how many votes can be manufactured in New Castle County, but I suspect it will be along the lines of a 50-45 finish, with IPoD’s Kathy DeMatteis getting 3-4% and the Libertarian candidate John Machurek picking up 1%.

Next closest will be Lee Murphy, who isn’t going to lose as badly as Scott Walker did. He will give LBR the closest race she’s had, although with just two under her belt it doesn’t say much. This matchup seems like a 55-43 type of match, with the IPoD candidate Catherine Purcell getting most of the other 2 percent over Libertarian David Rogers.

In both of the other two-person races – lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner – they’ll probably end up about 60-40 in favor of the incumbent Democrats, which is simply because people vote party line and neither Republican had built up her name recognition enough to make a dent. It’s a shame because both seem like they can do the job really well.

Last but not least is our U.S. Senate race. This could either be the biggest shocker in decades or, more likely, a 20-plus point whipping of Lauren Witzke by Chris Coons. There’s already a portion of the Republican base upset with her and I’m not sure Lauren’s push for the union vote is paying dividends. I look at this as a 60-37 race, with Libertarian Nadine Frost getting more of the other 3% than IPoD’s Mark Turley.

In the Delaware legislative races, the lack of opposition put up by Republicans in some races may cost them. There are a couple districts where I can see Democrats knocking off vulnerable state Senators (who often voted with the Democrats anyway) so that they will be up 14-7 going into the full turnover in 2022. In the House, with Democrats already spotted a 15-7 lead in unopposed candidates, it’s doubtful the GOP will improve on its 26-15 deficit. I think they will hold that number.

Looking quickly at Maryland, I think Andy Harris ends up north of 70% against Mia Mason in the First District House race. And to be honest, I have no sense of how that Wicomico County race I wrote about will go. There are more Republicans in the district but the question is how many will buy the horse hockey that the Democrat running is a “conservative Democrat.”

It’s also interesting to note that, based on their daily report, Republicans are already over 30% turnout in Maryland early voting, and in that regard they are crushing Democrats by 13 points. On the other hand, Democrats have returned 81% of their mail-in ballots to the Republicans’ 75%, but there is a wide disparity in their numbers – 49.8% of Democrats requested mail-in ballots while only 25.7% of Republicans opted to vote that way. So if there are long lines in Maryland tomorrow, that’s probably good news for the GOP because more of them have yet to vote – by my quick and dirty math about 57% of Democrats have voted in Maryland compared to 48% of Republicans.

So it’s doubtful that Donald Trump would carry Maryland, but he may come within 20 points and that would be a yuge improvement over losing 60-34 there four years ago.

For Delaware 2020

The other day I saw a photo of the scariest Halloween decoration out there: a white wooden cutout of “2020.” And in this year of the pandemic, we have had quite the state election campaign, haven’t we? Six Republicans running for governor, a spirited primary race for both sides in the Senate, and the inclusion of principled independent bids up and down the ballot have made this a rather unique balloting, particularly compared to previous Delaware elections I covered on a peripheral basis. It’s probably the most controversial run in a decade, since the O’Donnell vs. Castle U.S. Senate primary on the Republican side – a contest from which the rending of the state GOP still shows.

In this race, I have been a free agent of sorts: when I moved to Delaware I decided to call the Constitution Party my home because I’m more in tune with their political philosophy and, frankly, don’t have a lot of use for the Delaware Republican Party based on how they run their affairs and the candidates they support. Alas, the CP doesn’t have the numbers to have a ballot position nor do they have viable candidates running in the state. Thus, I had no primary vote, and the Republican voters of Delaware selected two of the three I would have preferred. (Feel free to cue up Meat Loaf if you desire.)

Besides my local races, which are walkovers because no one but the Republican bothered to file, I have five statewide races to consider: U.S. Senator, U.S. House, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Insurance Commissioner. I think I will handle them in the reverse order.

To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the Insurance Commissioner duties or candidates, except for the fact I thought it unusual that a county sheriff would pivot into the position, as happened in 2016. Trinidad Navarro indeed made that transition, obviously helped by the familiarity to New Castle County voters and the D column he was placed in. (Before becoming a police officer, he was an insurance agent for a time – but considering the length of time he was a LEO, this insurance experience must have been rather brief.) Navarro’s biggest claim to fame since taking office was spearheading the drive to enshrine Obamacare into state law, which means we are stuck with these unaffordable provisions.

Meanwhile, Dr. Julia Pillsbury comes from a different perspective – that of a pediatrician. As a business owner, she’s the one who has to deal with the insurance companies and wrestle with them as an advocate for those in her care. Just from looking from the outside, I believe that rather than having the fox watch the henhouse with a former insurance agent, perhaps it’s time to try a new approach and see if it works. I’m urging a vote for Dr. Julia Pillsbury.

Why do I get the feeling that incumbent Bethany Hall-Long is simply biding her time and waiting her turn as Lieutenant Governor? While the list of lieutenant governors who eventually grabbed the brass ring is still relatively short in Delaware, it includes two of the most recent previous three occupants of the office including the current governor. Anymore that seems like the Delaware Way and that’s not the way we should go, particularly as she’s apparently been a willing accomplice to Governor John Carney’s tyrannical ways.

I think Donyale Hall will be an active player who is also bringing in the perspective of an outsider – unlike her opponent, who spent 15 years in the Delaware General Assembly as her way of working up the political ladder. What do we have to show for the last twenty years she’s been in office? Donyale is placing her emphasis on education, economic advancement, and a streamlined budget – issues that appeal to hardworking Delaware families and not those who simply want their back scratched in return for bestowing the trappings of power. The better choice for Lieutenant Governor is Donyale Hall.

When the current governor John Carney ran for his latest office, he used a carefully cultivated reputation as a business-friendly moderate Democrat to finally win the office he thought he would grab back in 2008, when he lost a bitterly-contested primary to Jack Markell and could not succeed in doing what his “boss” Ruth Ann Minner did – advance directly to the Governor’s chair from being Lieutenant Governor. Instead, he cooled his heels in Congress after Mike Castle bolted for an ill-fated Senate run two years later.

Yet that belief Carney was business-friendly has evaporated in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed as of Friday 680 lives in Delaware – a number that would rank as the 56th largest city in Delaware if it were a town. I certainly don’t want to trivialize these victims, who were beloved by their families and friends, but the pandemic threw many thousands more out of work and continues to do so even as other similarly-situated rural states have reopened and returned to a relative state of normalcy.

That heavy-handed pandemic response was the factor that goaded six Republicans into joining the race to replace Carney. While two of these six had political experience as state Senators – including the candidate Carney defeated handily to win the governor’s chair in 2016 – Republican voters opted for an outsider, attorney Julianne Murray.

Julianne’s platform has been heavy on restoring small business to Delaware, and given these times it’s the right platform to have. Once again, it would be an outsider approach to state governance that may be the kick-start the state needs to succeed and not fall further behind its peers in everything except drawing retirees who take advantage of the three biggest assets Delaware has: inexpensive housing, low property taxes, and no sales tax. For them, the higher income taxes aren’t as much of a burden but for people who want to be productive private-sector employers it’s a lot more difficult.

It’s worth pointing out that there are four people in the race for governor, as it includes Libertarian John Machurek and Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD) hopeful Kathy DeMatteis.

Sadly, Machurek hasn’t run much of a campaign. I’ll grant that the Libertarian candidates don’t get a whole lot of love from the media except for the odd mention here and there and they don’t get invited to the debate stage. But sometimes you have to push the envelope a little bit. Unfortunately this has been true of all their candidates, who you don’t hear a whole lot about despite their good ideas – I’ve voted Libertarian regularly over my lifetime because they present a better alternative to RINO Republicans (or occasionally they are friends of mine.)

On the other hand, DeMatteis seems to be working hard at the race despite a low likelihood of success. She has some interesting and unique proposals, as do others in her IPoD camp. I think the question I have regarding Kathy’s plans – which apparently are spelled out in a book she wrote a few years ago – is why she couldn’t wait to run until she put them into place and succeeded with them? Why is it so important that she get into government to implement her ideas? Donald Trump succeeded in life then ran for President, and we see how that order of achievement worked out well for us.

For these reasons and many more, the best vote for Governor is one for Julianne Murray.

I have not been particularly inspired by the House race this year. It begins with an incumbent whose key reason for being elected in the first place was her gender, race, and the perceived slight of having neither heretofore represent Delaware. Since her election, Lisa Blunt Rochester (or LBR for short) has worked her way leftward on the political spectrum – most recently co-sponsoring a proposal that would serve to eventually eliminate gas-powered cars.

Yet LBR has drawn a motley crew of opponents which included a Republican who was defeated in the 2018 primary by a candidate whose claim to fame was illegally-placed plywood signage, a Libertarian who only recently put up a single-page website as his campaign face, and the IPoD candidate who admits to being an anon in Qanon. Still, I have to vote for someone and it won’t be LBR.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t enamored with Libertarian hopeful David Rogers but I have to hand it to IPoD’s Catherine Stonestreet Purcell for both having the longest name on the ballot and being the most interesting to follow because you really can’t pin her down on left or right. I sometimes wonder if she has a future career as an investigative journalist because she has the perfect undercover job as an Uber driver – she admits to going to places where she feels more likely to pick up well-connected people and just talking to them. Being the (admitted) Qanon participant, she has a deep interest in child trafficking and perhaps the most diverse Facebook friends list in Delaware.

All that is great for human interest, but in the meantime I have to vote for someone. I have to admit I have warmed up a bit to Lee Murphy’s campaign as he has presented a good case for replacing the incumbent to the voters. They should reward Lee Murphy by sending him to Congress.

Last – but certainly not least – is the race for U.S. Senate, preferably to replace the partisan hack Chris Coons, whose campaign has basically been “orange man bad.” With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and subsequent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court we’ve seen this tendency up close and personal.

Again, we have three opponents – although in this case, they are generally of a higher caliber than the House field. The only exception I would take to that is IPoD’s Mark Turley, who really hasn’t been out there and when he is Turley is trying to portray himself as a down-the-middle moderate – one who just happens to make his living in an industry the Senate can really help with ill-advised legislation (renewable energy.)

To be perfectly honest, I was torn in this race. Philosophically I line up best with the Libertarian hopeful Nadine Frost, who is a pro-life Libertarian. (In other words, she gets it.) Yet realistically the one with the best chance for defeating Coons is Republican Lauren Witzke, who has run an uneven campaign filled with landmines of her own making, particularly regarding the passing of the aforementioned RBG. She would be an almost automatic choice except for two places I vehemently disagree with her: one being the idea of incentivizing marriage and family through government policy (as opposed to that of merely not penalizing it) and the other being her stance against right-to-work as some sort of appeal to Big Labor voters – never mind that jobs tend to accrue to right-to-work states when all other conditions are substantially equal. Those are two big strikes against her, and her reaction to RBG’s death was very nearly strike three – somehow she managed to foul it off and stay alive.

Lauren has also managed to do what may be necessary to win and that’s nationalize her race. But then again, so did Christine O’Donnell and – fairly or unfairly – that’s the candidate and race people like to compare this to. This is one of those cases where the head was going one way and the heart the other – until I found the website.

But once I found out Nadine Frost had finally created a website that expanded on the limited information she had come up with earlier, it made my choice easy. If Lauren Witzke can win despite her missteps and big-government populist approach, then more power to her – she will still be a vast improvement over the incumbent.

Voting, however, should come down to who, in your judgement, will do the best job. Because she would be a Senator who thinks almost exactly like I do (right down to some of the phrasing, which makes me wonder if she reads my website), I have to vote for Nadine Frost for Senate. You can blame me if Lauren Witzke loses a close race, but thanks to a few self-inflicted political wounds I honestly don’t think it will come down to that.

So to recap, don’t just vote the straight GOP ticket:

  • U.S. Senator: Nadine Frost (Libertarian)
  • U.S. House: Lee Murphy (Republican)
  • Governor: Julianne Murray (Republican)
  • Lt. Governor: Donyale Hall (Republican)
  • Insurance Commissioner: Dr. Julia Pillsbury (Republican)

I haven’t decided if I’ll do a Presidential endorsement or not. Maybe I’ll make it formal this week, but I have one other race I want to discuss that’s not a Delaware race.

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.