Gov. Carney, Sen. Coons coast to Delaware primary victories

Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (September 15, 2020) — Gov. John Carney and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons easily beat back challenges to win their Democratic primaries in Delaware on Tuesday, while an actor and retired Amtrak conductor defeated a political newcomer to win the GOP primary for a U.S. House seat currently held by a Democrat.

Carney coasted to victory over David Lamar Williams Jr. and Coons defeated progressive activist and political newcomer Jessica Scarane to advance to November’s general election.

Carney has said he wants to continue working on racial justice issues. He also said he wants to strengthen public schools, improve Delaware’s infrastructure and clean up the state’s waterways. Carney was elected governor in 2016 after serving three terms in the U.S. House. He served two terms as lieutenant governor from 2001 to 2009 but lost the 2008 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Jack Markell.

Coons has served in the Senate since winning a special election in 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Joe Biden upon his election as vice president in 2008. Coons was reelected in 2014 to a full six-year term. He has developed a reputation for trying to work in a bipartisan manner despite usually voting in line with fellow Democrats. Scarane criticized Coons as being too eager to compromise with Republicans.

Six candidates are competing in the Republican gubernatorial primary amid GOP discontent over how Carney has handled the state’s coronavirus response. Attorney and political newcomer Julianne Murray, who has sued Carney in federal court over his coronavirus restrictions, is the GOP’s endorsed candidate.

Attorney James DeMartino and conservative activist Lauren Witzke are vying for the GOP Senate nomination. Witzke has denied accusations by some opponents that she supports QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory popular with some supporters of Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, actor and retired Amtrak conductor Lee Murphy, who narrowly lost the House primary two years ago, defeated political newcomer Matthew Morris on Tuesday and advances to face incumbent Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester in November.

Murphy is a former school teacher and coach who narrowly lost the GOP House primary two years ago. His campaign pledges include working to restore Delaware’s manufacturing base and bringing pharmaceutical industry jobs back from China. Murphy retired after 35 years in the railroad industry and began pursuing an acting career. He has appeared in commercials, film and the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

At the state level, voters had a unique opportunity to upset the political status quo and change the trajectory of the Democratic Party in the solid-blue state. Democratic incumbents faced challengers in seven General Assembly races this year, more than double in the 2018 primary.

Many of this year’s challengers were inspired by the growing progressive movement within the Democratic Party nationally and took on incumbents who have served for decades in the legislature.

Officials had estimated that half of the votes cast on Tuesday would be by mail because of the coronavirus. In June, state lawmakers approved a bill authorizing universal voting by mail in primary, general and special elections.

As of Friday, almost 57,000 Democrats, or about 16.3% of registered Democrats in Delaware, had returned vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, compared to roughly 11,500 Republicans, representing only about 5.7% of registered GOP voters.

For comparison, total turnout in the 2018 primary was 25.4% for Democrats and 19.7% for Republicans. In the 2016 primary, it was 20% and 16%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the state Republican Party has filed a Chancery Court lawsuit asking a judge to declare the new vote-by-mail law unconstitutional and to issue an injunction preventing universal voting by mail in the November general election. The state’s response is due Wednesday.

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