Democrats and Republicans across the state see plenty of opportunities in the upcoming elections.
While national Democrats are hoping to ride a blue wave to victory in this November’s election, and Republicans are hoping to reverse the trend of the party in power losing seats in the midterms, in Delaware Republicans are looking to wrestle control of the Senate from Democrats and chip away at the Democrats’ huge advantage in the House.
Delaware Republican Party vice chair Emily Taylor said the party needs to gain one seat in the House to end the current three-fifths supermajority held by Democrats.
“We are one seat away from preventing a supermajority and stopping tax increases, and we have strong candidates for all the vulnerable districts,” Taylor said.
Democrats control 25 of the 41 House of Representatives seats, a number unchanged since the 2014 election. But the party has only controlled the chamber since 2008, when they erased a five-seat deficit, gained a seven-seat advantage and ended a 24-year GOP dominance that spanned back to 1984.
In past races many House seats were uncontested. In 2016, Democrats won 16 seats and Republicans won four in uncontested races.
Taylor said the GOP is aggressively recruiting strong candidates to compete in all the districts this election.
All the House seats come up for re-election every two years, meaning anything could happen. The website Ballotpedia notes that eight House districts intersect with what it terms a pivot county, a county that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Those Kent County races, Ballotpedia says, could be key.
In the Senate, Democrats have lost a seat in each of the past four election cycles. Republican membership in the Senate has grown from five to 10 and sits within one of taking control of the chamber. You have to go back to before the 1974 election for the last time that Republicans controlled the chamber.
To date, two Democrats and one Republican have said they won’t seek re-election to the Senate. Each party is defending five seats this cycle. Democrats are defending seats they hold in districts 2, 3, 10, 11 and 17. Republicans are defending seats they hold in districts 4, 6, 16, 18 and 21.
Jesse Chadderdon, Delaware Democratic Party executive director, said the party is impressing on candidates the need to run strong campaigns if they want to win this fall.
“We’re not banking on this wave or bump or whatever folks are using to describe it,” he said. “We have to outwork the other side and tell voters why they are better off when we are in power.
“The senate has been a challenge for us over the last few cycles,” Chadderdon said. “The Senate majority is a priority of ours, we want to preserve it and grow it.”
To do that, candidates will have to focus on the issues that impact Delawareans.
“Top areas are infrastructure and investing in the future, public education, which is a difficult and complex problem to solve, but voters want to see improvement on, and public health care is sort of the third tier,” Chadderdon said.
Taylor said the state GOP also has high hopes for capturing Senate seats.
“We have a couple good candidates for the open seats in [Brian] Busheweller’s district,” she said. “It is definitely going to be a high priority for this election cycle.”
Like the Democrats, Taylor said GOP candidates will be focusing on issues that impact Delawareans.
“The issues are different by each county and district, but the main areas we’re focusing on throughout the state are stopping tax increases, talking about the education system and health care.
“The issues are the same [as Democratic priorities], but our approaches are different,” she said. “The Democrats got us into this mess, and we are asking voters are you better off than you were 10 years ago.”
Chadderdon said keeping our two U.S. Senator seats and one U.S. House of Representatives seat in Democratic control is also a priority for the party, as is maintaining a Democrat in the state Attorney General’s office.
“We can insulate Delaware from policies coming out of Washington,” he said. “For example, with the AG being able to file lawsuits to protect our coastline.”
Delaware joined seven other states in January suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not enforcing pollution standards on Midwestern states. The polluted air from those states blows into Delaware and negatively impacts our environment. Delaware also joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia against the EPA ‘s effort to roll back vehicle emissions standards, and in January Attorney General Matt Denn sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke objecting to a proposed federal plan to allow oil drilling off Delaware’s coast.
Denn is not running for re-election.
Taylor said whether in local districts or statewide offices, the message is the same.
“We’re going to run highly qualified people for office, people who have the skill set to not be a politician but run the office in a skillful way. It’s not about politics. It is about running the office correctly.”
Chadderdon said more districts will likely see democratic primaries this cycle.
“We are seeing unprecedented excitement at the grassroots level,” he said. “People interested in running for office. It really shows the party is growing and becoming diverse and is a healthy exchange of ideas.”