The primaries are over, and now Delaware’s U.S. Senate nominees are preparing for a two-month sprint to the Nov. 6 general election.
Three-term incumbent Democrat Tom Carper and Republican challenger Rob Arlett are approaching their campaigns differently.
Arlett, who won 67 percent of the GOP vote easily defeating Gene Truono in Thursday’s primary, is a member of Sussex County County Council and owns a real estate company. A staunch conservative who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Delaware, Arlett’s campaign website says his life is grounded in “faith, family and freedom.”
After winning Thursday, Arlett echoed Carper’s Democratic primary foe Kerri Evelyn Harris, telling WHYY he aims to convince voters that he’s more connected with working families than Carper, who has held statewide office for 42 years. Arlett offered to debate Carper every week until Election Day if Carper would agree.
“This is about putting the power back to the people,” Arlett said. “Senator Carper has been in office for so very long and I believe and many people believe he’s out of touch with the regular Delaware family. It is time for change. It is time for the next generation to step up and lead our state and nation into the future.”
Arlett also charged that Carper is more focused on opposing the GOP and Trump than working on behalf of all Americans.
“Right now he’s anti-president and anti-Republican,” Arlett said. “He has to remember that 42 percent of the people in this very state voted for the president.”
In Delaware, though, Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one. And voters statewide have elected Carper 13 straight times. He’s been treasurer, congressman, governor and since 2001, U.S. senator.
On Thursday, the self-described centrist vanquished progressive newcomer Kerri Evelyn Harris, 65 percent to 35 percent.
Carper congratulated Arlett for dominating the GOP primary but told WHYY he will do what he always does in campaigns — runs like he’s 20 percentage points behind and his opponent is 10-feet tall.
“I think sometimes people running for office, they get tripped up looking past the next contest, the next game. I never do,” Carper said while greeting supporters at this victory party Thursday in the restaurant behind home plate at the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball stadium.
“I take all of my opponents seriously. I think people in this state like that, respect that. They don’t’ want us to take them for granted,” he said.
And while Carper didn’t take any shots at Arlett during his victory celebration, he did allude to Trump, who is known to fire blistering attacks against his critics.
“We want our leadership to be respected,” Carper said. “Leaders who don’t build themselves by tearing other people down. That’s the kind of leaders we want.”