Delaware Republican Party Chair Charlie Copeland visited the “First” set this week to talk about his party’s future as well as 2016.
Republicans doubled their statewide office holdings with Treasurer-elect Ken Simpler’s win and State Auditor Tom Wagner’s successful re-election bid. The GOP also gained three seats in the General Assembly, removing two longtime state lawmakers from office.
“We were very aggressive in our messaging about the failures of the economy in Delaware, the failures of our educational system, the violence in the city of Wilmington,” Copeland said. “[The Democrats] were stuck running on a very poor record and I think that’s what ultimately reflected itself in the election.”
While Delaware Democrats held on to their offices at the top of the ticket, Copeland said the margins by which they won presage the electorate’s desire for change in a state that is characterized as solidly blue.
“We had Democrats who’ve run statewide and been elected statewide multiple times barely breaking 50 percent, 55 percent against brand new candidates or candidates that were completely underfunded and I think that again is indicative of the message that we said, ‘Look, we need a two-party state, we need to be able to hold these guys accountable,'” Copeland said.
National and statewide issues
Over the next two years, Copeland said the party focus needs to zero in on job growth and strengthening the economy. Something, Copeland said, the Markell Administration has neglected to do.
“Most of the policies [the governor has] put forward have been social policies,” he said. “That’s great, but if you’re living in the city of Wilmington and are unemployed it really doesn’t matter what social policies you’re putting forward, you have no food. And so we’re going to fight for those issues.”
Nationally, with Republicans now in control on Capitol Hill, Copeland anticipates some type of immigration reform and fixes to the Affordable Care Act, rather than a wholesale overhaul.
Competitive candidates in 2016
A week after Simpler’s win and his name has already been tossed around as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2016. While the political newcomer hasn’t shut down the idea outright, Copeland does not expect Simpler to run.
“I would be very, very, very surprised if Ken Simpler ran for governor in 2016 because he really did run saying, ‘Look, I’m a finance guy , this is a finance job, we need to get this working.'”
State Senator Colin Bonini announced he’ll run in 2016 and Lacey Lafferty filed for the race in September 2013. Copeland said state Senator Greg Lavelle would be a strong candidate and alluded to one or two other GOP members who are thinking about a run, but he wouldn’t name names.
Beau in 2016
Whoever winds up representing the party will presumably go up against Democrat Beau Biden. The eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden announced his intention to run for governor this past spring via email. Consequently, the now outgoing attorney general said he would not seek re-election.
“Nobody in good health does that because you stay as attorney general and run as governor from the attorney general’s office because you can have press conferences all the time when you’re putting bad guys in jail,” Copeland said. “I don’t know what his health issues are, I hope they’re all behind him, but I think it doesn’t make any sense unless you’re not healthy.”
Biden appeared at Return Day, but Copeland said he did not stay long and didn’t talk to anybody. Outside of that, Biden has largely remained out of the public eye as speculation about his health grows.
Biden who’s in his mid-40’s underwent an undisclosed medical procedure at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center last summer. He also suffered a mild stroke in May 2010.
“At some point, he’s going to face the voters and the voters have a right to know the health of and what the issues were,” Copeland said.
Delaware GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland’s interview airs Friday night on First at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.