Voters have their say
Delaware voters turned out in droves for the midterm general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, with statewide voter turnout coming in at more than 52 percent — well above the roughly 36 percent of the state’s voters who cast ballots in the 2014 midterms.
While the winners of Delaware statewide offices on Tuesday were Democrats across the board, local offices — and Sussex County voting for statewide offices — went to Republicans, with the incumbents in Delaware House Districts 38 and 41 both retaining their seats and the Sussex County Council seats for Districts 4 and 5 both remaining in Republican hands, despite respectable showings from Democratic challengers.
For U.S. senator, incumbent Tom Carper, a Democrat, garnered nearly 217,000 votes statewide, netting almost 60 percent of the vote, compared to former Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, a Republican, with roughly 38 percent of the vote. (Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates totaled just over 2 percent of the vote, collectively.)
Carper lost the vote in traditionally conservative Sussex County, however, netting 40,672 votes to Arlett’s 50,390. But Carper dominated New Castle County voting and topped Arlett in Kent County as well, leading to his re-election to a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
On the House side of the national picture, Delaware voters re-elected Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester with more than 64 percent of the votes statewide, to just 35.5 percent of votes going to Republican candidate Scott Walker.
In Sussex County, Walker nudged past Blunt Rochester, garnering 44,615 votes to her 44,048. But Walker was handily defeated in New Castle County, and Blunt Rochester saw a wide margin of victory in Kent County as well.
For Delaware Attorney General, Democrat Kathleen Jennings defeated Republican Bernard Pepukayisr by a wide margin as well, with roughly 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent for the Republican, who did top the voting in Sussex County by about 4,000 votes.
In the state treasurer race, Democrat Colleen Davis won a relatively tight race with Republican incumbent Ken Simpler, 52 percent to 46 percent. Again, Sussex County voters predominantly chose the Republican, 47,312 to 43,120, but were outnumbered significantly by voters in New Castle and Kent counties.
The auditor of accounts race also went to the Democratic candidate, Kathleen McGuiness, who garnered nearly 58 percent of the vote statewide, compared to Republican James Spadola’s 42 percent. Sussex voters also preferred the Republican in that contest, 49,430 to 40,759, but Spadola lagged far behind in New Castle County and was more than 2,000 votes short of the lead in Kent County.
Republicans retain seats in state house, county council
Voters in Delaware’s Representative District 38 — which contains most of the areas east of Frankford and Selbyville between the Indian River Inlet and the Maryland state line — strongly favored Republican incumbent Ron Gray over his Democratic challenger, Meghan Kelly, 66 percent to 34 percent.
Those in the Route 113 corridor’s southern portion, in District 41, favored the Republican incumbent as well, with Rich Collins taking nearly 61 percent of the vote to just over 39 percent for Democratic challenger Brad Connor, a local businessman and former Dagsboro mayor.
In voting for Sussex County Council’s District 4 seat (south Rehoboth Beach to Bethany Beach and inland to areas of Long Neck), voters elected Republican Doug Hudson by a roughly 2,000-vote margin. He topped Democratic candidate Paulette Rappa 54 percent to 46 percent.
And in voting in Sussex County Council District 5 (a southern swath of the state from Laurel to South Bethany that includes Dagsboro and Frankford, as well as a portion of Millsboro), Democratic candidate Ellen Magee fell short of victory by about 3,000 votes, with Republican John Rieley taking about 61 percent of the vote to Magee’s roughly 40 percent.
Local Republican candidates celebrate
Re-elected to his seat representing the state’s 41st District, Collins on Wednesday voiced thanks to his supporters and expressed hope that he could transcend a political divide to bring more of the area’s voters to support Republicans.
“I want to thank all the voters who helped return me to office and ... I pledge to do my best for them for the next two years,” Collins said. “I’m also happy that Sussex County sought to keep Republicans in every office that went Republican.”
Collins said he was pleased to see Republicans retain their hold on the U.S. Senate, with its ability to confirm, he said, “judges and justices who will respect the Constitution and individual rights of Americans and Delawareans in my district.”
With the U.S. House of Representatives moving under Democratic Party control after Tuesday’s election, Collins added of those races, “I’m very sorry to see that we lost.”
“It’s very obvious we have a divide,” he said. “I’m hoping in the next two years I have the opportunity to bring some of these people into the fold,” he added, suggesting he will continue efforts to emphasize individual rights that he said people put at risk by voting for “strong progressives.”
Gray said of his Nov. 6 victory, “I’m delighted to be reelected again, and I’m looking forward to serving the constituents of the 38th District. I think we still have a lot of stuff to work on,” he added, “with clean water, with traffic [and other daily issues] that I’m looking forward to working with the community and helping solve.”
“My big thing is constituent support,” Gray noted. “If you’ve got concerns, reach out to me, I’ll do what I can. ... I’m looking forward to serving the area for two more years and welcome concerns people may have.”
Incoming Sussex County Councilman John Rieley celebrated his win in District 5 voting on Tuesday night at Salt Pond with fellow Republicans Hudson and Gray, as well as volunteers.
“It was a nice crowd there of volunteers, and we all celebrated together,” he said. “We had a great time.”
With the victory, and looking ahead, Rieley said, “It’s gratifying. Now the real work begins, right? We’re excited, but we understand it’s going to be a lot of work ahead. We’re ready.”
He said of his top issues as a councilman, “It’s hard to just pick one. I’ve been hearing a lot about high-speed internet,” adding that he plans to spend the immediate future “getting oriented and up to speed with the issues.”
Rieley said of Magee, “My opponent ran a tough race, but a clean race.”
Of the root of his public service, he said, “If I had to trace it back, it was probably my mother’s involvement in the League of Women Voters. My father ran for office once or twice. Public service is important, and I’ve always had an interest.”
In District 4, a victorious Hudson on Wednesday said, “It feels great, but it’s been a grind and we’re all kind of tired. I’m just humbled to get so much support, and I’m ready to go to work.”
Hudson said of his focus coming onto the council, “There is a lot going on, but one of the main things is infrastructure. My main topic all the time, too, is public safety.”
“I’ve been in public service my entire life,” he noted. “When I was 16 years old, I joined the Bethany fire company, and then I went to the Bethany Beach Police Department. Then I went on to the State Police and spent 27 years there.”
Hudson will take over the seat held by retiring longtime District 4 councilman George Cole, who appointed Hudson to the County’s Planning & Zoning Commission two years ago.
“Once I got my feet wet in that, got really involved, I really enjoyed it,” Hudson said. “That’s what sparked my interest in running for county council.”
A former Lower Sussex Little League coach and board member, Hudson said he spent the early hours of the day after his victory literally cleaning up from his campaign.
“I went to bed last night around midnight, and woke up at 3:30 a.m. to collect about 250 signs. I felt responsible, so I went out and got signs,” he said.
Coastal Point Staff Reporters Maria Counts and Laura Walter contributed to this story.
By M. Patricia Titus