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Delaware’s DNA is heavily Democratic


Oh, the disparity. The Democrats and Republicans are so mismatched going into this election year, there is a case to be made for the Republicans to sue the Delaware voters for non-support. Would that they could.

The Republicans have been jilted for years now, with the estrangement getting more and more pronounced. The voters here are becoming so taken with the Democrats that even Massachusetts, also known as the “People’s Republic of Massachusetts,” could be feeling jealous.

“The new image of Delaware nationally is one of the bluest of states,” says Joe Pika, a “The new image of Delaware nationally is one of the bluest of states,” says Joe Pika, political scientist at the University of Delaware. “For many years it was Massachusetts that Democrats pointed to as the party’s final bastion. It’s likely soon to be Delaware.” 


Green With Envy? 

Politically speaking, it is probably more appropriate to say Delaware could leave Massachusetts blue with envy. Good-bye, Teddy Kennedy. Hello, Joe Biden.

The Democrats had 123,000 more voters than the Republicans did on Delaware’s registration rolls toward the end of 2013. This does not seem to bode an election as much as a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The numbers gap has been rising and rising. Already it looks as though the Democrats will more than double their advantage over the 10 years between the 2004 and 2014 elections.

The last time the Republicans had a winning year was six elections ago in 2002, the one following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. They won three out of five statewide races by re-electing Mike Castle as congressman, Jane Brady as attorney general and Tom Wagner as auditor.

The Republicans still trailed the Democrats in registration back then, but it was only a gap of nine percentage points. Now it is 20 percentage points.

Along the way, there has been a Democratic surge with the party gobbling up elections so relentlessly that Wagner, the auditor, is the only Republican left standing among nine statewide officeholders.

Castle was taken out by his own kind, bewitched by Christine O’Donnell in the Senate primary of 2010, and Brady escaped into a judgeship to avoid a race against Beau Biden in 2006. Just think, Biden at that point was merely the son of a Democratic senator, not a Democratic vice president.


Only Wagner has been grandfathered into statewide office, for reasons best known to the voters themselves.

It was a good thing, too. Wagner’s last Democratic opponent in 2010 was Richard Korn, a serial candidate running for his third office, and since then Korn has had to fight charges of dealing in kiddie porn and also sued his own mother, a 93-year-old widow, for money. Somehow the voters seem to have a sixth sense about this sort of stuff.

The Democrats are flush with Jack Markell and Matt Denn as the governor and lieutenant governor, Tom Carper and Chris Coons as the senators, John Carney as the congressman, Beau Biden as the attorney general and really, whoever it was who managed to win the Democratic primaries for treasurer and insurance commissioner. Down that far on the ballot, the votes get automatic.

Not that it should be a surprise how the parties are faring here. The whole Northeast is going that way, Chris Christie in New Jersey notwithstanding.

Besides, Delaware essentially likes its politics moderate. The Republicans had very good years here when the Democrats were running Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis for president, not so good now that the Tea Party is around.

“Moderate Republicans, a disappearing breed throughout the Northeast, had to find a new home, and Republican-leaning independents are likely to have been distressed, as well,” says Pika. “Delaware Democrats have benefited handsomely. The hard-line position so prominent among Republican members of the House of Representatives is likely to reinforce this trend in Delaware.” 

The problem for the Republicans here is that losing begets losing. It is a vicious downward spiral. A party out of power has trouble raising the money, building the organization and recruiting the candidates it needs to get into power.


It is not Lost on Colin Bonini.

Colin Bonini, a Republican state senator who lives in the Camden-Wyoming area, ran for state treasurer in 2010 and came oh-so-close to winning with 49 percent of the vote. He would not mind trying again in 2014, but the worsening voter registration numbers are making a strong argument that maybe he ought to stick to the legislature.

“You can raise all the money you need, and you can do everything right, and you can still lose when the numbers get that bad,” Bonini says. “There are always things as a candidate that are completely out of your control, and the numbers are out of your control.”

Believe it or not, neither side likes the situation.

Obviously, that includes Charlie Copeland, the Republican state chair. “You keep plugging away. It is not good to have a one-party system. Competition is good,” he says.

Not so obviously, it also includes John Daniello, the Democratic state chair. “If the Republican Party keeps insisting on acting the way it is now, the Democrats are going to get better. Delaware is a microcosm of the country, and the registration numbers that we’re showing reflect what’s going on. It’s a shame. The system is built on two parties with legitimate dissent,” he says.

No doubt the Republicans are relieved to put 2013 behind them. Not only did they fall further behind with the electorate, they fell into political limbo when they had to replace their state chair. It was supposed to be John Sigler, but he stunned everyone, including himself, when he ran into job complications and had to resign. Two months later, Copeland was tapped to take over.

The Republicans could be excused if they came down with a case of triskaidekaphobia, the fear of ’13. Next up, tetraphobia? The fear of something with “4” in it, like the ’14 election year.   

» R​eturn to the January 2013 issue.