Del. Senate leader survives challenge

The Delaware state Senate has re-elected Anthony DeLuca (D-Varlano) to remain Senate President Pro Tem by the slimmest of margins in a vote that at least one Senate leader felt was unnecessary.

DeLuca received the bare majority of 11 votes required in the 21-seat chamber during a special session Tuesday at Legislative Hall in Dover. DeLuca was challenged by freshman lawmaker and fellow Democrat Sen. Michael Katz (D-Centreville).

Katz’s move didn’t sit well with Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East).

“We took a vote and we elected our leaders and we thought we were done with it,” Henry said. “But one particular Senator said ‘let’s tear up the ballots.'”

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DeLuca was first elected to the post following the death of Bridgeville Democratic Senator Thurman Adams, and nominated for the job last month by members of his party’s caucus. But that didn’t stop Katz from trying to challenge DeLuca.

“It’s not being respectful of the caucus process,” Henry said, “where you come together and you work and you agree to disagree, and in the end you have some consensus and you work on that, and that’s what we thought we had done.”

Five lawmakers voted against retaining DeLuca as Senate leader, and four others declined to vote.

DeLuca, who was first elected to the Senate in 1998, says the vote caps a wild election year.

“We’ve had an interesting election season on a national level, we’ve had it on a statewide level and we’ve had it within the General Assembly,” he said. “We have numerous problems that face us in the state of Delaware and I think the important part is we get back to doing the business of the state.”

Katz, elected in 2008, did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story.

The question moving forward is: will this divide the Senate’s majority party? Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) doesn’t think so.

“We often have leadership fights,” she said. “They just don’t usually go public in this way. I think things will settle down and we’ll be fine. We won’t always agree. That’s par for the course.”

DeLuca has been the subject of criticism in recent months for ordering renovations to his Legislative Hall office, and for holding up a vote to establish a scholarship program at historically black Delaware State University.

“I was very pleased that Senator DeLuca was re-elected Pro Tem,” Blevins said. “He is a strong leader with great energy. He is a man of his word and is very straightforward.”

The 146th General Assembly convenes Jan. 11.

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