Delaware’s hot political races

What are the hot political races this year in Vice-President Biden’s home state of Delaware, where campaigns are underway for all the top offices including Governor, Lt. Governor, U.S. Senate, Congress, and all the seats in the state legislature?

You have to look pretty far down the ballot to find a competitive race in what is now deeply blue Delaware. Popular Democratic Governor Jack Markell is headed for a comfortable re-election, along with his running mate Lt. Governor Matt Denn.

U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the most successful politician in Delaware history, is about to be re-elected to his third term in the Senate, despite a vigorous self-funded challenge from Independent businessman and lawyer Alex Pires. With the anti-incumbent opposition divided between Pires and a Republican challenger, Tom Carper is again a shoo-in.

Delaware’s freshman member of Congress, former Lt. Governor John Carney, is waging an all-out re-election campaign, even though most Delaware voters couldn’t pick his Republican challenger’s name out of a multiple choice.

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With President Obama and Vice-President Biden at the top of the ballot, and a Democratic plurality in Delaware voter registration, all the statewide Democratic officeholders can expect to be re-elected by big margins, including Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, who survived a serious primary challenge.

I would pick three state senate races to be competitive, in which both major parties should and will concentrate their spending.

The single most competitive race in Delaware is in northern Delaware’s 4th senatoral district where freshman Democratic Senator Mike Katz is being challenged by State Representative and Republican Minority Leader Greg Lavelle. This is a district which has always had a Republican registration plurality, and still does even after the 2010 redistricting by the Democratic controlled state legislature.

Senator Mike Katz is a practicing physician, and currently the only physician in the legislature. I believe he is the first Democrat elected in the 4th senatoral district since at least before the Civil War, and would welcome any information or correction pertaining to this belief. Republicans are raising money to try to stop his re-election, and Democrats know this is a seat that needs to be vigorously defended. Senator Katz has been politically independent and during his first term challenged the leadership of Senate President Anthony DeLuca who was this year defeated for re-election in the Democratic primary.

A second competitive state senate race is in the 12th senatoral district which straddles the northern Delaware communities of New Castle, Bear, and Glasgow, where 16-year incumbent Republican Senator Dori Connor, age 65, is being challenged by Democratic special-needs advocate Nicole Poore, age 39. The age contrast in this race is striking, but it’s hard to predict which candidate will benefit from it.

A third race to watch is Sussex County’s newly constituted 6th senatoral district where Republican Ernie Lopez faces off with Democrat Andrew Staton. Both candidates had to win their nominations in contested primaries. Although there’s a Republican registration plurality in the district, which ought to favor Lopez, his primary victory over Tea Party favorite Glen Urquhart was both close and heated, which could affect turnout for this race in the general.

If these, the most competitive races in Delaware this year, seem relatively small potatoes, take heart from the fact that Tea Party insurgent Christine O’Donnell, who upset veteran Congressman Mike Castle in the 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, has signaled her intent to make a fourth run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

In a move welcomed equally by both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, O’Donnell has indicated her interest in challenging U.S. Senator Chris Coons, to whom she lost in the 2010 general election to fill the final four years of Vice-President Biden’s last Senate term. A replay of the Coons-O’Donnell race should again put Delaware back on the national political frontburner in 2014!

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