After the Election a Step to the Left for the 151st General Assembly, and A Foot in the DC Door
On Saturday, November 7, Delaware’s Frawley Stadium in Wilmington became the most famous parking lot in the world as President-Elect Joe Biden delivered his victory speech, together with Vice-President-Elect, Kamala Harris. The Delaware Democratic Party faithful waived flags, honked horns and posted numerous photos of themselves from CNN on social media. The First State and the Nation’s Capital will become more connected than even Acela could make it until now. However, Democrats were also celebrating state-house wins, though not every seat under contention flipped blue, much like the national picture. So here is a roundup of things to watch for and expect based on where we are today.
Diamond State Brain Drain
Diamond Joe is sure to tap some Delawareans to join him in the administration, so look for some personnel changes at all levels of government in the Diamond State. Senator Chris Coons is one possibility for Secretary of State, and that could cause a major re-shuffle down to the New Castle County government level depending on who is appointed to replace him. Morris James has alerted clients to complete matters involving current personnel where warranted.
A More Progressive Statehouse
The members of Delaware’s 151st General Assembly will be more progressive and diverse than in years past. Areas of interest for this progressive group range from racial justice, gun reform, greater access to affordable health care, education equality, to a possible minimum wage increase. However, state revenues are down, and unions have signaled opposition to certain gun control measures in the past. So no counting chickens yet (or rather Blue Hens). The day of the Delaware Blue Dog – or more conservative sort of Democrat – may not be entirely over after vote counting on some measures.
The Legislative Black Caucus grew from eight members to 12 members, making up nearly 20% of the state’s legislators. There is a new LGBTQ+ Caucus with the elections of Senator-elect Sarah McBride (D), Senator-elect Marie Pinkney (D), and Representative-elect Eric Morrison (D). McBride is the first elected openly transgender woman in the nation, which is making national news. Finally, Representative-elect Madinah Wilson-Anton (D) is the state’s first practicing Muslim to be elected into office.
Word has it that the new First State “Squad” had already been ring-tailed and schooled about the need to steer clear of legislative changes that would endanger Delaware’s corporate dominance, and 38% of the state’s revenue with it. Movement on that front would have national implications. Many also worry privately about Coons stepping off the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up a position in Biden’s administration, where he champions Delaware’s continued preferential treatment in bankruptcy and corporate legal jurisdiction, a source of many high-paying private sector jobs.
Dem Senate Super Majority
A recap of the election results and notable shifts in leadership are as follows:
Governor John Carney (D) won re-election to a second term, winning 59.47% of the votes.
Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D) also won re-election with 59.15% of the votes.
Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro (D) won re-election with 59.49% of the votes.
The big shift came in the State Senate, where Democrats gained two seats to increase their majority from 12 to 14 out of 21 total seats, giving them a supermajority. While Republican votes will be needed to pass the budget, not as many, and on most votes only Democrats will be needed. Here were the Dem pick-ups in the Senate:
- Senate District 5 with Kyle Evans Gay (D) defeating incumbent Cathy Cloutier (R)
- Senate District 7 with Spiros Mantzavinos (D) defeating incumbent Anthony Delcollo (R)
- Senate District 1 where Sarah McBride (D) earning 73% of the vote for the open seat
- Senate District 13 Marie Pinkney (D) winning by 76%, for a seat in which she beat the incumbent (Senator David McBride) during the primary
Senate leadership was decided upon two days after the election as follows:
- Senator Dave Sokola (D), Senate President Pro-tempore
- Senator Bryan Townsend (D), Senate Majority Leader
- Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman (D), Senate Majority Whip
- Senator Gerald Hocker (R), Minority Leader
- Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R), Minority Whip
In the House, Democrats control the chamber with 26 out of 41 seats. Mike Ramone (R) held on again in House District 21, defeating second-time challenger Stephanie Barry. The newly elected members of the House of Representatives are:
- Representative District 7, Larry Lambert (D) beat the incumbent (Representative Ray Seigfried) in the primary
- Representative District 8, Sherae’a “Rae” Moore (D) who ran for an open seat that was vacated by Representative Quinn Johnson
- Representative District 26, Madinah Wilson-Anton (D) who beat the incumbent (Representative John Viola) during the primary.
- Representative District 27, Eric Morrison (D) who beat the incumbent (Representative Earl Jacques) during the primary.
House leadership remains unchanged with the following legislators in the same roles as the previous session:
- Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D), Speaker of the House
- Representative Val Longhurst (D), Majority Leader
- Representative John “Larry” Mitchell (D), Majority Whip
- Representative Danny Short (R), Minority Leader
- Representative Tim Dukes (R), Minority Whip
Preparations for the upcoming Delaware Legislative Session, beginning officially in January, have moved into high gear with the election in the rear view. There will be a lot of new faces with energy and belief in a mandate for change. Now that we are all Ridin’ with Biden, one way or another, Morris James will be helping clients navigate a new normal with many remaining challenges on COVID control, State revenue, unemployment, struggling local industries, and a lagging economic recovery.
Whatever the future holds, this was a historic election for Delaware on many levels.
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