Delaware Senate up for grabs Saturday

Republicans could gain control of the Delaware Senate for the first time in more than 40 years, if John Marino can win Saturday’s special election in Senate District 10.

There are 35,000 registered voters in Delaware’s 10th Senate District. About 16,000 Democrats, 10,000 Republicans and about 9,000 not affiliated with the major parties. Those residents live in the booming southern New Castle County area of Middletown and parts of Glasgow.

Those voters will have the chance Saturday to give Republicans control of the state Senate. The Senate seat became vacant when Bethany Hall-Long took office as Lieutenant Governor in January. The departure of Hall-Long, a Democrat, leaves the Senate tied at 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Democrats, both in-state and out-of-state, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Democratic candidate Stephanie Hansen. Former Vice President Joe Biden has knocked on doors in the district with Hansen and recorded TV ads touting her campaign.

“Stephanie Hansen understands what people need, this election is very very important,” Biden said in one advertisment. “Don’t ask yourself the morning after the election, why didn’t I vote?”

Republicans, like state Senator Greg Lavelle, R- Sharpley, are salivating at the chance to take control of the upper chamber for the first time in decades. Lavelle sees the use of heavy hitters from the Democratic side as a symptom of what he calls “one party rule.”

“The fact they’re bringing in everybody who’s currently in control fits perfectly because these are the people who’ve brought us these problems. We believe that balance in government is good and results in better compromises, more substantive compromises and deal with these issues,” Lavelle said.

Hansen said her party has held the majority in both chambers of the Delaware General Assembly for so long for a reason.

“Delaware has been a very Democratic state since then, I think, because the Democrats have really kind of spoken to the issues that were important to the people,” she said.

The Republican candidate John Marino declined WHYY’s request for an interview to talk about the race, but blamed the Dems in control for the state’s financial woes earlier this month at a candidate forum in Middletown.

“Delaware has been one party rule in the Senate for 44 years, it has led us to where we are today with a $350 million budget deficit,” said Marino, at the time. “This race is critical.”

Voters like Middletown’s Jim Reynolds have been weighing the candidates ahead of Saturday’s election.

“It’s very important for this area. We’ve had great representation for the years with the Senators and Representatives in this area, they’ve worked well with the town, and it’s real important that we get someone elected there that will work with the town and the local community around it.”

Bethany Hall-Long was re-elected to this seat in 2014 after defeating John Marino. She won by fewer than 300 votes. Marino’s back again, hoping to secure a GOP majority in the state Senate with a better outcome this time around.

And with national and local supporters focusing so much attention on the only race in Delaware on Saturday, Lavelle said voters in the district have been inundated with ads, mailers and visitors knocking on their doors. 

“I’m sure everyone in the 10th Senate district will be happy when Saturday night at 8 p.m. comes, and they’re not harassed any longer by either party.”

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