It goes without saying that, like Maryland has its 90 days of terror we call their General Assembly session, Delaware has its own time of horror – unfortunately for us, it lasts even longer than 90 days and oftentimes doesn’t even end when it’s supposed to.
In this year’s new session, we have seen the continuation of two trends: Democrats get more radically regressive and Republicans cower even more in fear. Perhaps part of this is the impersonal nature of Zoom meetings, but in perusing the vote totals I don’t see much in the manner of Republicans convincing Democrats their way is the wrong way.
However, one bill that bucked this trend to an extent was House Bill 30, which passed the House by a depressing 37-4 vote. The four who voted no were Bennett, Kowalko, Morrison, and Spiegelman – three Democrats and a Republican were the opposition when most of their cohorts voted for what I consider an incumbent protection bill.
Simply put, House Bill 30 repeats the same mistake Maryland made a decade ago by moving its state primary from September to April. Extending the campaign by another five months is in no one’s interest but incumbents, who generally have the financial and name recognition advantage. It also puts the heart of the primary campaign in a season where bad weather may be a factor and there are fewer opportunities to meet and greet voters out and about. For example, I attended an August event last year where it was hot and cold running Republican politicians. That’s where I met the eventual gubernatorial candidate. In the early primary scenario, the candidate probably doesn’t show because they figure the party vote is sewn up – or worse, by that point the party has buyer’s remorse and won’t do anything for the candidate.
If anything, Delaware was a good example of how to compress an election. The furthest out any candidate seemed to make noise in the 2020 state campaign was the Senate bid of Lauren Witzke, who basically kicked off her bid in January, eight months before the primary. Most of the other entrants from both parties didn’t make their intentions known until later on in the spring; in fact, eventual GOP gubernatorial nominee Julianne Murray only entered the race in late May. In the proposed scenario, she’s a day late and probably a lot of dollars short.
Furthermore, over the years we’ve found that people tend to tune out politics until after Labor Day. Judging by the local school board elections, we really don’t do much in the spring as voter participation was sparse for almost every race. Imagine what the electoral burnout of placing these nonpartisan school board elections a couple weeks after a partisan primary will do for that already anemic turnout.
Another critical impact of this decision will be that of placing the filing deadline right in the middle of the General Assembly session, meaning legislators will be making decisions with one eye on who their prospective opponents might be. This will really be the case where two (or more) House incumbents wish to move up to a Senate seat in a district that all might happen to live in. For example, let’s say my Senator Bryant Richardson decided he would retire after his term. In theory, any or all of the four Republican House members whose district overlaps with Richardson’s could vie for the spot and that decision would have to made during session. (The reality is more likely that only one or two actually live in his district, but even having two is still an issue.)
Moreover, instead of allowing a legislator considering retirement a chance to finish the session before deciding, he or she would have to announce this decision beforehand, making them the lamest of ducks for the entire session and perhaps creating the above scenario.
If politics ran the way I thought they should, we wouldn’t have any campaign officially kick off until after the beginning of the year of the election. Using a Presidential campaign as a guide, you have your conventions around Labor Day with six weeks of eight-state regional primaries held on a rotating basis running from early June to the middle of July. We’ll even keep the New Hampshire primary first by having it the first Tuesday in June and the Iowa caucuses can kick things off right after Memorial Day. Done in less than six months, not measured in years. The pundits, networks, and political junkies may hate it, but I think it would be a great idea.
So let’s be the exception and keep our last-in-the-nation primary. We’re the First State, but there are times it’s good to be the fiftieth.