Former New York City cop to face veteran lawmaker in Delaware GOP gubernatorial primary

State GOP chair Julianne Murray said this week she would not enter the race, as expected. Murray lost to Gov. Carney in 2020.

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Jerry Price and Mike Ramone

Former cop Jerry Price (left) will face House Minority Leader Mike Ramone in the Delaware Republican gubernatorial primary. (Courtesy of Jerry Price/State of Delaware)

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For months, the race to succeed Delaware Gov. John Carney has focused on three fellow Democrats seeking the office in a state their party dominates.

But with the Sept. 10 primary just four months away, Republicans now have a two-person race for the GOP nomination. That scenario surfaced this week when House Minority Leader Mike Ramone joined political newcomer Jerry Price, a former New York City cop, on the ballot. Price filed for the office in December.

When Ramone filed Monday, state GOP chair Julianne Murray, who had said she was also entering the race this week, announced that she would forgo a run in the interests of “party unity.” The party will endorse a candidate later this month during its annual convention.

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Murray, a lawyer, had run against Carney in 2020, winning 39% of the vote — about the same as other GOP statewide candidates that year. She also ran unsuccessfully for attorney general against incumbent Kathy Jennings in 2022.

Democrats hold all nine statewide elective offices and have a nearly two-to-one advantage in voter registration. The last Republican governor was Mike Castle, who held the post from 1985 to 1993.

On the Democratic side, the candidates are Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, and former state environmental chief Collin O’Mara.

Primary winners will face off in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ramone: ‘I think Delaware needs a breath of fresh air’

Ramone, who owns a swim club, fitness center, landscaping, pool and property management business, has represented the Pike Creek area since 2008. He became the minority leader in 2023.

Ramone announced last week that he’s not seeking re-election to the House for two reasons: he is moving to Dewey Beach, where he has long had a second home, and he was seeking the GOP gubernatorial nod.

Ramone, 62, told WHYY News that his business experience, 16 years in the General Assembly, and a lifetime spent in Delaware qualify him to head the state government.

He said the governor’s office needs new direction after 32 years in Democratic hands, especially since the state House and Senate are dominated by the majority party.

“I think Delaware needs a breath of fresh air — somebody who’s not as politically motivated, but somebody who would represent Delawareans, not one party or the other.”

As a state representative for 16 years, “I’ve learned an awful lot about the way people do things, what they do, why they do it,’’ he said. “And you know, I’m just concerned. I’m concerned our schools are deteriorating. I’m concerned health care [costs have] gone up and up and up and up.”

Ramone also cited the state’s high rate of traffic fatalities, including three in recent days, as well as the opioid crisis.

“There’s just so much that it’s concerning and it’s painful. I think we need to start prioritizing what we need to do for the people, start using a little bit of common sense, and get out of this polarizing political environment we have.”

Asked about the Democrats’ 145,000 registration advantage over Republicans in a state with 775,000 voters, Ramone asserted that should he win the nomination, he trusts voters of all political persuasions to give him a fair hearing.

“I don’t think it’s about blue and red. I think it’s about doing things better and solving problems,’’ Ramone said. “We’re all buying the same groceries, We’re all paying the same inflation. We are all having our same taxes go up. We’re all under the same social unrest and concern for safety.”

“We’re all in the exact same environment, with trying to get children coming out of our schools with the ability to function in society. We all have the same problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re red or blue. We’re all trying to make Delaware a better place to live.”

Ramone said he’d also like to make it easier for small businesses to be successful by easing the “overzealous quantity of regulations” that currently exist.

He said that as an entrepreneur who started a family flower business when he was 21, “I have the experience of knowing how to run a significantly large payroll, what it’s like to have to sign the front of the checks.”

Price: ‘No one seems to be delivering’ on promises

Price, 59, moved to Delaware two decades ago and worked as a Rehoboth Beach police officer before retiring. He said he became motivated to run for office after watching politicians talk about “crime and health issues” on the television news.

“They just seem to promise you everything but nobody’s delivering,” Price siad. They don’t know how to fight crime, or sit with health workers at hospitals and see what they could do.”

The governor oversees the Delaware state police. Price said the force is solid with strong leadership, “but they’re so short-handed,” and he would deploy troopers differently.

He’d like to triple the size of the narcotics unit, put more people on patrol, and “just discuss different crime policies” such as how to protect a densely populated area as opposed to a rural area.

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On health care, Price bemoaned the fact that insurance charges so much for out-of-network coverage. He cited his own visit to the emergency room for some cardiac issues that led to a $13,000 bill.

“You can’t pick and choose your doctors,’’ Price said.

Price also said he opposes transgender women playing on “female sports” teams. “There are only two genders,’’ he said, adding that he opposed any gender-based surgeries until someone is 18.

The first-time candidate said he knows he has an uphill battle against Ramone and likely the party’s “money machine,’’ but pledged to compete for votes up and down the state.

“I’m not running for governor for a pat on the back,’’ he said “I just want to help people.”

Party chair Murray, in announcing she would not run for governor again, said, “it is imperative to maintain focus on party unity and organizational strength and to take the fight to the party in power.”

She cited the “potential threat of a Democrat supermajority in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly. I cannot sit idly by as our party faces the prospect of division and distraction.”

Julianne Murray
State GOP chair Julianne Murray, who had said she was going to run for governor again , announced Monday she would not in the interests of “party unity.” (Courtesy of Julianne Murray)

“Now, more than ever, unity is our greatest asset in championing conservative values and reclaiming Delaware from the grip of radical Democrat governance. We must break the stranglehold of one-party rule.”

Carney is barred by law from seeking a third four-year term and is now running in the Democratic primary for Wilmington mayor against former state treasurer Velda Jones-Potter. Two-term incumbent Mayor Mike Purzycki decided last year not to seek a third term.

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