Will Wilmington have a new mayor after today’s primary vote?

Members of the Wilmington firefighters' union came out in force for mayoral hopeful Velda Jones-Potter and other city candidates Tuesday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Members of the Wilmington firefighters' union came out in force for mayoral hopeful Velda Jones-Potter and other city candidates Tuesday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

No students are currently attending The Bancroft School on Wilmington’s East Side because of the pandemic, but the building and its outskirts bustled with activity Tuesday.

It’s Primary Day in Wilmington, and that means the mayoral race will be decided.

Voters must choose among first-term incumbent Mike Purzycki, City Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter and former City Councilman Justen Wright. There is no Republican candidate, so Tuesday’s victor will lead Wilmington for the next four years.

Campaign workers outnumbered the voters trickling into the polls at several sites WHYY visited in the morning. At Bancroft, a truck with an oversized photo of Wright rolled along the block.  But Jones-Potter, whose father was a longshoreman, had the most signs and supporters. One was port worker Tyrone Butler.

“I think she’s a strong person and she can handle the situation at hand,’’ Butler said. “She’s just showing the kids that where she came from to where she is right now, you can do anything.”

Psychologist Carlene Tucker-Garcia voted at P.S. duPont Middle School on the city’s northern edge, where representatives of the city firefighters’ union, which endorsed Jones-Potter, had her photo plastered on an out-of-service fire truck.

Tucker-Garcia says Jones-Potter can do a better job tackling gun violence. Shootings dropped sharply early in Purzycki’s tenure but have skyrocketed this year.

Carlene Tucker-Garcia thinks Jones-Potter would do a better job of tackling Wilmington’s gun violence. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

From Saturday through Monday alone, six people were shot, three fatally. This year 132 people have already been shot in Wilmington. That’s 18 more than during all of last year and on pace to get close to the record 197 wounded or killed during 2017, Purzycki’s first year in office.

“This crime rate is absolutely ridiculous. And that concerns me,’’ Tucker-Garcia said.

She added that Jones-Potter, who (like Wright) is Black while Purzycki is white, would bring more diversity at the top of the government in a municipality where 69% of residents are Black or Latino. Jones would also be the first woman mayor in Wilmington’s history.

“I think diversity is important because sometimes, when people have lived the way you’ve lived, they understand what your concerns are,’’ said Tucker-Garcia, who is Black.

Larry Smith, a former city community affairs aide, backs the incumbent.

“I think Mike has done a good job in dealing with some very challenging issues,’’ Smith said. “There’s more to be done, but I think he has the administrative skills to move the city of Wilmington forward.”

Larry Smith says Mayor Purzycki has “done a good job in dealing with some very challenging issues.” (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Smith, who is Black, said Purzycki has been a leader in helping Wilmington students get scholarships and admittance into historically Black colleges and universities and also created cleaning teams to work in some of Wilmington’s predominantly Black neighborhoods.

“He’s reached out heavily to the African American community,” Smith said.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Mail-in ballots can be dropped off until then at county election offices and the Carvel State Office Building.

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