Delaware primary: Wilmington Mayor Purzycki wins second term; Julianne Murray will face Gov. Carney

Delaware Gov. John Carney

Delaware Gov. John Carney answers questions regarding Delaware’s response to coronavirus during a press briefing at the Carvel State Office building in Wilmington on April 3, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Four years ago, Mike Purzycki won the Democratic primary for Wilmington mayor by fewer than 300 votes. This year was not nearly that close.

Purzycki took 43% of the vote to defeat city Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter who got 35%. Former Councilman Justen Wright came in third with 21%.

And while the mayor’s race may have been the closest watched in the city, the U.S Senate primary on the Democratic side got the most national attention.

Delaware’s Chris Coons is one step closer to securing his U.S. Senate seat, which the Democrat has held since 2010. It’s the seat once held by Joe Biden.

He won the election with more than 72% of the vote, against the progressive newcomer Jess Scarane, who promoted Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Meanwhile, Coons called universal healthcare unrealistic to achieve in the near future, and instead vowed to support the Affordable Care Act.

Coons said he hopes those who voted for his opponent will vote for him in November and stay engaged and involved in politics.

“I respect the fact that there were folks who came out and voted tonight based on my opponent’s vision for a more progressive, inclusive, and sustainable Delaware,” he said. “While we may have different approaches to achieving those ends, the basic goals of increasing wages, improving the access to quality health care and tackling climate change are goals that I share.”

Scarane led her campaign with an aggressive phone banking initiative, and volunteers made calls to 600,000 voters, more than half of the state’s population.

Despite being soundly defeated, she pledged to continue advocating for her progressive ideals.

“Throughout everything, we’ve stuck to our central message: that we can guarantee every person a good standard of living, if we legislate for people over corporations,” she posted on Twitter shortly after polls closed. “No matter what happens tonight, this fight continues.”

Coons will take on Republican Lauren Witzke during the general elections in November. Witzke won the GOP primary against James DeMartino with more than 56% of the vote. She supports a 10-year stop on all immigration, and the eradication of DACA, the Obama-era program that allows qualified individuals brought to the U.S. as children to get legal status if they graduate from high school or were honorably discharged from the military, and if they passed a background check. Witzke said those DACA recipients should be deported.

Coons and Witzke also face Independent Party of Delaware candidate Mark Turley and Green Party candidate Nadine Frost.

Democrats have held both of Delaware’s seats in the U.S. Senate since Tom Carper unseated Republican Bill Roth 20 years ago.

Gov. John Carney easily won his primary contest against newcomer David Lamar Williams. Carney took about 85% of the vote. He’ll face Julianne Murray who won a six-way primary on the Republican side with more than 41% of the vote. She edged out state Sen. Colin Bonini who ran against Carney four years ago. Bonini got about 34%.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester will face Republican Lee Murphy in November. Murphy won his GOP primary against Matthew Morris.

It’s a bit of a comeback story for Murphy. He was stunned in defeat two years ago by the very unconventional Scott Walker in the GOP House primary. Walker ran in the Republican primary for governor and finished with less than 10% of the vote. In November, Rochester will try to secure her third term as Delaware’s lone representative in the U.S House.

Further down the ballot, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign Sarah McBride won the Democratic primary to replace state Sen. Harris McDowell. McDowell decided not to run for reelection after serving in the General Assembly since 1976.

McBride would become the first openly transgender woman to serve in the General Assembly if she can beat Republican Steven Washington in the November election.

“Sarah’s primary win shatters another lavender ceiling in our movement to build LGBTQ political power,” said former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who is now president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Her victory will inspire more people to run for office.”

However, there were some upsets in Delaware’s state senate and representative races. Democratic state Sen. David McBride, the Senate President Pro Tempore, lost his seat to social worker Marie Pinkney, who received more than 51% of the vote. McBride held his senate seat since 1980, had been a member of the General Assembly since 1978, and had not had a primary challenger since 1986. Pinkney supports a Green New Deal in Delaware, tighter gun control with a waiting period prior to purchasing a firearm, and a Medicaid buy-in option for Delawareans.

Democratic state Rep. Earl Jaques lost his seat to Eric Morrison, a local advocate and human resources project manager, who won with more than 61% of the vote. If Morrison wins the general election in November, he would become the first openly gay man elected state representative in Delaware. Morrison has accused Jaques of not being a true Democrat, pointing to his history of not voting to ban conversion therapy and voting against a bill protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Morrison is in favor of marijuana legalization, a Medicaid buy-in option for Delawareans, gun reform, and public pre-K.

Democratic incumbent Raymond Seigfried also lost his state representative seat to Larry D. Lambert Jr., who won by more than 58% of the vote.

After 11 p.m. on election night, the Democratic primary results for the state representative seat in District 26 was too close to call. Incumbent state Rep. John Viola was trailing by just 1% of the vote behind Madinah Wilson-Anton, a University of Delaware graduate student and policy analyst for the Biden Institute.

There’s a shakeup in Wilmington City Council as well. Council President Hanifa Shabazz has been defeated by fellow Council member Trippi Congo. Shabazz had frequently squabbled with both members of council and at times the public. Last year, the state attorney general determined she violated the state’s open meeting laws by not allowing a frequent critic to speak during a public comment period. Congo, a funeral director by trade, has also found himself in trouble. Earlier this year, he admitted in a radio interview that he moved out of his district, and then refused to resign his seat. With no Republicans in the race, Congo will lead Council following the November election.

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