Delaware's primary election: Updates as Carney, Coons, Murphy take early wins; Witzke follows
Across the state on Tuesday, Delaware voters who had not already cast their ballot by mail turned out to vote, mask-clad and socially distanced.
Voters were deciding many key races, especially in areas where Democrats have the advantage. A primary win in those races meant the candidate would almost automatically win in November.
ALL THE SEATS UP FOR GRABS:Feuds, morphing parties and history-makers: What's at stake in Delaware's primary election
In all three counties, council seats were up for grabs, as was New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer's position.
In Wilmington, a handful of Democrats were vying for the city's mayoral and City Council seats, and Gov. John Carney faced challengers. Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro was also up for reelection.
WILMINGTON RACES:With just days left, Wilmington primaries reach new levels of combat
Sen. Chris Coons was also on the ballot Tuesday, facing a progressive primary challenger.
Two Republicans squared off for the right to face that winner.
TRACKER:Follow along as results come in
The results of Tuesday's races could be a bellwether for how Delaware politics is changing in both major parties.
Here were updates throughout the day as voters hit their polling places and results came in throughout the night.
Shortly after midnight, all 436 precincts reported their election results and were represented in online election data, providing definitive answers as to who came out on top in Delaware's primary Tuesday.
While some of the races were called early as voting tallies started flowing in, others came down to the wire, showing just how tight some Delaware primary races really were.
Delaware also recorded a voter turnout of 32.26% statewide, a number higher than usual for a primary
For full results from Tuesday's primary, stick with Delaware Online.
— Brittany Horn
Incumbents in New Castle County have swept the contested races on the Democratic side.
With no challenger in the general election, County Executive Matt Meyer will serve a second term after defeating political newcomer Maggie Jones. With 97% of precincts reporting, Meyer has 56.58% of the vote. In an almost evenly split three-way race, New Castle County President Karen Hartley-Nagle defeated challengers Monique Johns and Ciro Poppiti, claiming 40.06% of the vote. She will face independent Brian Whitaker, the New Castle city clerk, in November’s general election.
Four years after upsetting three-term incumbent Tom Gordon, Meyer ran on the accomplishments of his first term, including most recently the county’s response to COVID-19. Meyer said Tuesday night, restoring public health remains one of his top priorities.
“We can’t have a healthy economy, we cannot have healthy schools, we can’t have a healthy housing market or jobs market until we have a healthy community.”
Hartley-Nagle said she was the best choice to lead County Council through the pandemic because she has already developed a rapport with members of council and is fiscally responsible. Poppiti, the county’s Register of Wills, and Johns, a workshop facilitator from Middletown, garnered 28.42% and 31.52% of the vote respectively. Because of his experience in county government and relationships with members of council, Poppiti was seen as the favorite by some.
“I just help [my constituents],” Hartley-Nagle said. “Whatever they need I help them with.”
— Brandon Holveck
Julianne Murray appears to have won the Republican nomination for governor, holding off Colin Bonini in six-candidate primary for the right to try to unseat Democratic governor John Carney.
Murray, with 433 of 436 precincts reporting, won 41.15% of the vote to Bonini's 34.55%. Murray collected 22,787 votes to Bonini's 19,133. None of the other four candidates topped 8% of the vote.
Bonini ran for governor in 2016 and lost to Carney with about 39% of the vote.
Murray, an attorney, is representing her husband in a lawsuit against Carney over his coronavirus restrictions.
She pointed to messaging as the key to pushing herself to the front of the election pack.
"People are tired of career politicians," she said late Tuesday night, "and I was directing that at John Carney, but Colin has been a senator for 25 years. The fact that I’m the political outsider is huge."
— Jeff Neiburg, Shannon Marvel McNaught
With all precincts reporting for the district, Sherae'a "Rae" Moore of Middletown won the State Representative District 8 Democratic nomination Tuesday night, receiving 41.85% of the vote, according to the Department of Elections unofficial results.
The seat was up for grabs after Democrat Rep. Quinn Johnson announced he would be retiring earlier this year.
Moore made education, healthcare and the environment the top priorities of her campaign, including universal preschool for all and improved access to healthcare, according to her website. Moore told the Middletown Transcript she was "overcome with emotions" and is glad to see the Middletown-area is ready for a change in leadership.
Despite receiving an endorsement from Johnson, challenger Matthew Powell of Middletown came away with 26.66% of the vote. Yvette Santiago of Middletown received 31.49%.
More than 3,000 Middletown-area residents voted in the primary, with 1,821 voting in-person and 1,240 voting absentee.
— Amanda Parrish, Dover Post
Former Smyrna mayor Joanne Masten defeated Morgan Russum of Smyrna 3,083 to 871 in the Democratic primary for Kent County Levy Court District 1 commissioner Sept. 15.
Absentee and mail-in votes totaled 1,437 for Masten to 444 for Russum, while voting at the polls was 1,646 to 427 in Masten’s favor.
“I want my constituents who voted to know I am humbled by the outpouring of support, very, very humbled by it, and look forward to the Nov. 3 general election,” said Masten.
During her campaign, she said the issues residents mentioned most were bringing jobs to Kent County and increasing internet access and making it more affordable.
Masten said factors that made a difference in the election include “name recognition, involvement in so many community organizations, my business background and my work as mayor with a proven track record.”
There is no incumbent in the general election. District 1 Commissioner Brooks Banta, the Levy Court president and a Democrat, isn’t running for re-election after serving 24 years on Levy Court.
Masten’s Republican challenger in November is Dr. Douglas Chervenak of Smyrna.
— Ben Mace, Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
With 97% of precincts reporting, it appears as if Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki has hung on for victory.
The mayor has 43.57% of the vote to Velda Jones-Potter's 35.16%. Justen Wright is behind both candidates with 21.28% of the vote.
Purzycki's reelection was buoyed by absentee ballots. Jones-Potter has more machine votes than the mayor with one more precinct to still come in.
Things won't be easy for Purzycki moving forward, as our Jeanne Kuang points out...
— Jeff Neiburg
The Associated Press called the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in favor of Lauren Witzke at 10:16 p.m. Tuesday night.
With 371 of 436 precincts reporting, Witzke was showing 57% of the vote over GOP-endorsed candidate, Jim DeMartino.
Witzke's policy centerpiece is a 10-year moratorium on immigration, a would-be unprecedented change that would drastically alter the country's economy.
She has frequently posted messages on social media in support of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Witzke will face Sen. Chris Coons in November.
— Jeff Neiburg
With 68% of precincts reporting, Mike Purzycki is leading the way in the mayoral race in Wilmington with 45% of the vote.
There are really tight races forming for District 13 state Sen., where Dave McBride is trailing; District 26 state Rep; Wilmington City Council President, where Trippi Congo leads Hanifa Shabazz; and others.
Check out our tracker here.
— Jeff Neiburg
The Associated Press has called the following races...
Gov. John Carney won the Democratic nomination for governor.
Sen. Chris Coons won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
Lee Murphy won the Republican nomination for the U.S. House.
Results are still being tabulated.
Coons has served in the Senate since winning a special election in 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Joe Biden after Biden became vice president in 2008. He defeated progressive challenger Jess Scarane.
Carney was elected governor in 2016 after serving three terms in the U.S. House. He "coasted" past David Lamar Williams Jr., AP said.
Murphy, an actor and retired Amtrak conductor, narrowly lost the House primary two years ago. He defeated Matthew Morris.
— Jeff Neiburg
Was anyone else hitting refresh every two minutes for over an hour?
The first wave of results are starting to come in on the state's election site.
Howard Sholl, deputy director for the Department of Elections New Castle County office, said almost all the absentee, mail-in, email-in and dropped-off ballots have been counted in the county as of 9:30 p.m.
Machine votes are still being counted.
Sholl said this was the biggest turnout in a primary election in recent memory. He estimated that in New Castle County, absentee and mail ballots only make up just over half of votes that have to be counted
— Jeff Neiburg and Jeanne Kuang
After being open for 13 hours, polls in Delaware have closed. Many votes were cast by mail, and results should be coming in shortly.
Check our live tracker here.
— Jeff Neiburg
News Journal reporter Jeanne Kuang was on Facebook Live from P.S. duPont Middle School just before 6 p.m., two hours before polls close in Delaware.
Check out the video below.
Wilmington candidates have spent much of the day campaigning outside city polling places. Mayoral candidate Justen Wright was seen talking to supporters outside The Bayard School in Hedgeville before heading to vote at PS duPont middle school.
His wife and children waved signs for him at the Music School of Delaware, where a cardboard cutout of Wright stood in place for him.
There, opponent Velda Jones-Potter voted just before noon. She would be the first female mayor if elected and said "it's past time" for a woman to hold the seat.
"We need compassionate, courageous, skilled leadership," she said.
Jones-Potter and Wright have been in high spirits greeting supporters today. Incumbent Mike Purzycki, speaking to voters outside Bancroft elementary school in the late afternoon, says he is still confident in his victory, but "you never know."
"Game day always feels like this," he says.
— Jeanne Kuang
Toward the end of his weekly COVID-19 press conference, Gov. John Carney said he had not yet gone to vote Tuesday, but he said a record primary turnout was possible, with more than 62,000 in absentee ballots turned in from Delaware Democrats before the day began.
That absentee number is nearly as many total votes cast during the 2016 Democratic primary for the U.S. Rep. seat won by Lisa Blunt Rochester in 2016. Two years later, more than 79,000 turned out for Sen. Tom Carper's race with Kerri Evelyn Harris.
Carney said most of the absentee ballots this year came from those aged 60 or older.
"Vote by mail works," he said. "A lot of people took advantage of it.
"I think it's going to prove critically important, allowing people to vote safely during the pandemic situation."
Carney did not indicate who he planned to vote for in the county races, but he did say he was supporting Mayor Mike Purzycki.
— Jeff Neiburg
Voters trickle into Newark’s polling places Tuesday afternoon.
Without wait lines or reported issues with voting machines, the only difference compared to typical years for Newark voters is the masks they wear.
Jennifer Tillet requested a mail-in ballot a few weeks ago but says she waited too long to mail it back. She decided to vote in person at Downes Elementary School on Casho Mill Road to make sure her vote is counted.
Tillet says poll workers called the Department of Elections before allowing her to cast a vote to ensure she hadn’t mailed in her ballot.
When asked about her priorities, Tillet says she’s concerned about the “whole pandemic situation.” A Christina School District elementary school teacher, Tillet says she’s also worried about equity in education, particularly as the pandemic wanes on.
A poll worker at Downes says the turnout seems to be akin to normal primary elections, with voters trickling into the school gymnasium every few minutes.
At West Park Elementary School a few miles away, volunteers spend part of the afternoon alone with no voters present. Similarly, small crowds are seen at the Presbyterian Church, another polling place on West Main Street.
Residents there also report no issue voting Tuesday afternoon.
— Brandon Holveck
2:30 p.m. Spirits high at P.S. DuPont Middle School
As Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" booms from the parking lot outside P.S. DuPont Middle School, voters move briskly in and out of the Wilmington school, historically one of the biggest polling places for Democratic primaries in the state.
Around 2:30 p.m., Rick Williams, a field organizer for U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, makes his rounds at the polling place during a lull in voting.
“Come back in a few hours,” he says. “This is a big polling place. If you are a Democrat running citywide, countywide, statewide, you are coming to this district.”
As of midday, a short line pokes out from inside the polling place, but voters aren't stopped for long.
Williams says he's been visiting several polling places throughout the day and aside from normal hiccups, voters are getting in and out in a timely fashion. He thinks that the large number of candidates are going to bring out big numbers in the city, despite COVID-19 concerns.
Quinn Kirkpatrick says approaching the gauntlet of campaign workers and volunteers greeting voters at the school was a “little nerve wracking.”
She says she had requested a mail ballot, but decided with all the recent news around delays in the federal mail system, she wanted to make sure her vote counted and visit the polls in person.
Kirkpatrick says Jess Scarane, who is challenging Coons’ for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, is one of the main reasons she is excited to vote this year.
“She is a progressive candidate, which we don’t see here often,” Kirkpatrick says.
She adds that a recent job paid her $9-per-hour, so Scarane’s platform to raise the minimum wage to $15-per-hour resonates with her.
“Fifteen dollars is not radical,” Kirkpatrick says. “It is barely a living wage.”
Pastor Tyrran Smith of Arise at Peninsula McCabe United Methodist Church saya he wanted to physically walk to the polling place to do “something good for the city.”
“All the shootings in the city have to stop for our children,” he says.
He said he’s excited to see “new life” and “young blood” on the ballot for city positions.
“Otherwise, we become stagnant,” he says.
— Xerxes Wilson
State Sen. Laura V. Sturgeon stands outside of the Hockessin PAL Center and greets voters. Sturgeon says she is supporting New Castle County Executive Matt Meyers.
“He’s a good guy. He’s working hard for the county,” Sturgeon says. Donning a pink mask, she says came to the center around noon and has been seeing “a slow but steady” stream of voters.
Nearby, Maxime Kanda, who wears a T-shirt supporting Aja Ajavon for Clerk of the Peace, says he voted earlier in the day in Glasgow.
“I don’t trust mailing in,” he says. “Not with all the trouble with the post office and people not getting their mail.”
At a table set up near the front door of the PAL center, Michelle Murphy and Jay Lin, volunteers for Lauren Witzke, say they began greeting voters at 9 a.m., giving out doughnuts and Trump-Pence stickers.
“It’s been steady, but not large crowds,” Lin said.
There's been some tension between Republicans and Democrats outside the Hockessin PAL Tuesday, several people report.
— Patricia Talorico
Outside Mount Pleasant Elementary School, U.S. House of Representatives hopeful Republican Matthew Morris campaigns.
Morris is vying for the House seat currently occupied Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., but is facing off against Republican Lee Murphy in Tuesday's primary.
Murphy, a 68-year-old actor who lives in Bellefonte, is running for the seat for the second time in a row and has received the endorsement from the Delaware GOP. In 2018, he was also the GOP's preferred candidate when he lost the Republican primary with 47% of the vote to Scott Walker.
Morris, a 34-year-old Wilmington resident and sales manager at Raymour & Flanigan Furniture, says he is being treated unfairly during his campaign by members of his own party for his criminal history.
He was convicted of first-degree aggravated assault following a 2013 incident in Philadelphia. When he was charged, Morris said the violent attack was self-defense because the man he assaulted was threatening to kill him. Convicted felons can hold elected federal office depending on their conviction.
Morris briefly addressed his background Tuesday, saying he knows first-hand "institutional and systemic racism is alive and well" because he's been incarcerated. He also says he's seen it in the criminal justice system.
"I've witnessed a white man who committed the same crime as a Black man and the Black man was given more time than the white man, both of them had no priors," Morris says. "This is an issue, this is something that needs to be talked about."
Aside from Morris outside Mount Pleasant, the school is largely quiet, meaning there's plenty of room for social distancing inside the voting area.
Voter Marie Chrisco says politics "is a big thing" in her house, and she's voted in elections for decades. She says she feels very safe voting, even during the pandemic.
Ken Kenton also isn't particularly worried about COVID. He wants to make sure his vote is counted, which is why he is voting in person.
Prior to this election, he was a registered independent, but says he recently chose a party. He doesn't disclose which.
"It's important to vote anytime you have the opportunity to vote right," Kenton says. "Everything was distanced and everybody had masks on. Machines were wiped down in between."
— Marina Affo, Sarah Gamard and and Isabel Hughes
Several different problems cause 20-minute delays at four polling places Tuesday morning, New Castle County Director of Elections Tracey Dixon says.
Eastside Charter School's polling location opened late because election workers struggle to find "poll books," which are uploaded into the machines. Delays at Emmanuel Church are caused by a weak internet signal, and there was "just a delay in opening" at Luther Towers, Dixon says.
She says the state's newly-purchased voting machines are performing well at all locations, except Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, where machines initially struggled to read "activation cards." A technician was sent to the location in the morning and quickly repaired the problem, she says.
While some were upset by the delays, Dixon says she didn't believe any voters left the locations before the problems were resolved.
Delaware Election Director Anthony Albence says he doesn’t believe such issues will arise in the General Election. After every election, his office reviews issues that occurred and reinforces training with poll workers.
"There’s always follow-up after the election to make sure if there’s any areas that need to be reinforced, they will be,” he says.
— Karl Baker
It’s been a slow trickle of voters throughout the morning at Maple Lane Elementary School in Claymont, election inspector DJ Bryant says.
Poll workers spent the morning directing voters to the school cafeteria, instead of the gymnasium, where polling machines are normally set up.
It’s hard to say whether the light turnout meets expectations, Bryant says. Absentee ballots have increased this year, and Maple Lane ballots only cover county- and state-level seats.
The line reached the front doors of the building at one point, he says, but aside from that, it’s been a slow and smooth morning.
“I always vote. It’s everybody’s right to vote,” says voter James Racine. “Those that don’t vote, they can’t complain.”
While many have chosen to mail in their vote this year to avoid crowds during the pandemic, Racine says he lacks trust in the postal service.
“I don’t believe in main-in voting; I’d rather come in person,” he says. “I don’t rely on anybody but myself.”
Outside the elementary school, campaigners from county and state races greet approaching voters, thanking them for voting as they leave.
LaRayel Lambert started her shift greeting voters at 7 a.m. A sister of Larry Lambert, candidate for state representative, she urges people to vote “because your future matters.”
Throughout her brother’s campaign, Lambert says residents' concern has centered around the pandemic and the financial consequences of it.
On campaign calls, she’s heard residents ask about issues like access to food pantries, assistance with utilities, and difficulties getting prescriptions.
“Don’t be discouraged, get out and vote,” Lambert says. “Do a little bit of research, find your polling place, and go out and vote.”
A steady stream of folks line up along the street outside Luther Towers, where some say it's their second time trying to vote. When they stopped in earlier in the day — around 7 a.m. when the location opened — voting machines weren't working.
By 8:30 a.m., the machines were up and running.
"Looking at this now, I might see if it's possible to fill out the absentee, or the mail-in for the presidential and drop it off," says one man in line. "I kind of wanted to vote in person just to make sure that it got done correctly, but I predict that if the lines are like this for the primary there'll be a lot worse for the general election."
Others standing in line say they wanted to vote in person because they don't trust the mail-in process as much, given the current national conversations about the post office's ability to handle a greater load due to the pandemic.
"I have more confidence voting in person," says Sean Dulin. "All the news around what Trump has done with the post office and he's got his guy in there trying to obstruct the mail-in process ... I'm just gonna make sure my vote counts."
Many in line say they aren't worried about social distancing outside, but once inside the small room for voting, there are some issues. While all poll workers wear masks, there's no room to spread out.
Luther Towers is serving as two polling locations, so the crowd is bigger than normal. About half the people in line normally vote at Westminster Presbyterian Church, which declined to be a polling place for the primary.
Four poll workers man electronic check-ins, two for Luther Towers and two for Westminster. Some thought their polling place was Luther Towers and found out it was Westminster, meaning they had to start the process of checking in over at the other table.
"I think you'll live and learn from this election for the general election, and just take those learnings and figure out how to do it better," says Jeff Argus.
He believes that by the time November rolls around the kinks will be sorted out.
Still, with two locations and poll workers working hard to get everyone their proper ballots, the tiny room in the rear of Luther Towers seems even smaller Tuesday morning.
"It was crowded in there. It's a tight space," says Argus.
He, like many, didn't feel unsafe standing in line to vote or being in the smaller room, but he says he's worried about the seniors in the area, some of whom live at Luther Towers.
— Marina Affo
At Delaware Technical Community College, poll workers say they've had to turn away about 10 voters who are assigned to vote instead at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Broom Street.
Residents in Hilltop and Tilton Park precincts were initially told to vote at DelTech, but then were switched to Holy Trinity. Many say they did not receive notification in the mail.
— Jeanne Kuang
Hilltop neighbors Leah White and Margarita Berrios vote together at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Tuesday morning. White, donning a purple T-shirt that reads "very Velda," is supporting Velda Jones-Potter for mayor.
The church became the designated polling place for the Hilltop election precinct just two weeks ago, and many residents say they didn't receive notification in the mail.
There appear to be other confusions in the mix too — Berrios says she did get the polling place cards but was told at Tuesday morning she can't vote in the primaries because she is a registered Independent.
She says she has never registered as an Independent.
"How does that work? Why did you send me a card?" she says, holding up her face mask.
"We take our risks to do our duty," she says of voting during the coronavirus pandemic. "This is my right."
— Jeanne Kuang
Several last-minute changes to polling locations in New Castle County have confused some voters Tuesday morning.
Monday night, the Department of Elections' New Castle County office announced three locations had been moved: Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Broom Street in Wilmington; Westminster Presbyterian Church to Luther Towers I on North Harrison Street; and Crossroads Presbyterian Church to Lorewood Grove Elementary School on Mapleton Avenue.
The elections department said Monday it mailed polling place cards to Delawareans set to vote at the first two locations, but did not for the Crossroads change "because the change occurred when it was too late to send them before the primary."
— Isabel Hughes
7 a.m. Polls open
Polls open across Delaware, and will remain open until until 8 p.m.
There's a chill to the early morning air, making the first real signs of fall in the First State as voters prepare to cast their ballots.
At P.S. DuPont Middle School, voters wait in line outside, most warming their hands in their pockets. Campaign signs dot the grass outside the school.
RUNNING INTO ISSUES?:Here's what you need to know before you vote in Tuesday's primary election
At other polling locations, voters complain of a lack of staff and long lines as early as 7 a.m.
Meyer, New Castle County's executive, arrived at the polls early. He says he expects low in-person turnout in the county Tuesday, given more than 36,000 people have already voted by mail.
— Isabel Hughes and Damian Giletto
Reporters Marina Affo, Natalia Alamdari, Karl Baker, Sarah Gamard, Brandon Holveck, Isabel Hughes, Jeanne Kuang, Jeff Neiburg, Patricia Talorico and Xerxes Wilson contributed to this report. Photographer Damian Giletto also contributed.
Send story tips or ideas to Isabel Hughes at email@example.com or 302-324-2785. For all things breaking news, follow her on Twitter at @izzihughes_