Progressive challengers knocked off two longtime state representatives from the Newark area in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
In District 26, Madinah Wilson-Anton defeated 11-term incumbent John Viola by just 43 votes, according to unofficial results Tuesday night. Gabriel Olawale Adelagunja came in a distant third.
In District 27, Eric Morrison beat six-term incumbent Earl Jaques, 61 percent to 39 percent.
“People want progressive change, and the establishment has not given us that,” Wilson-Anton said Tuesday night.
The so-called “Delaware Way” of candidates waiting their turn is not working, she said.
“The establishment wants us to wait in line for the changes we deserve, and our campaign has shown people are sick of waiting and are ready for change,” she said.
Wilson-Anton, who works as a policy analyst at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute, got her start in politics as a legislative aide for Viola, which she described as an eye-opening experience.
“I got to see the political process up close, and while aspects of it are inspiring, I was also really disappointed and frustrated by what I saw as the lack of progress on important issues like having fair funding for our schools and quality health care. We have an affordable housing shortage in our state,” Wilson-Anton said. “I just, honestly, was disappointed and frustrated by a lot of politicians not standing up and being courageous and fighting for the things we need to succeed as a community.”
During the campaign, she criticized Viola for not introducing legislation that would address some of the issues she feels need to be addressed
“I think it’s really important that the person representing our community – which is actually a majority-minority district, very young compared to other districts in the state and also very, very progressive – is that our representative should be someone who is fighting for the issues that are important to us and not just getting in line with the caucus,” she said.
Wilson-Anton vowed to fight for affordable housing and accessible childcare, and one of her main platforms is education funding reform.
“Our funding system is antiquated,” she said. “It’s based off of local wealth and not on the need of students. We are one of the few states that still doesn’t apportion extra funding for students that need more. So that’s really the main thing that I’m interested in changing.”
In November, she will face Republican Timothy Conrad.
“I’m incredibly grateful for all the support we’ve seen from people in our state, from the community and from across the country,” she said, fighting back tears as she addressed supporters.
Morrison spent six years as an educator and now works in human resources at a bank. He is on the steering committee of the progressive group Delaware United.
He said he never intended to run for office but changed his mind due to his dissatisfaction with Jaques.
“To be frank, I contacted the incumbent I’m challenging now a number of times about issues. He never responded. That bothered me,” Morrison said during the campaign. “Then, as I did a little more digging on his record and learned how he doesn’t stand for some of the most basic tenets of the Democratic Party, that really bothered me. So, after thinking about those things, and also thinking about issues he hasn’t addressed, like health care and criminal justice, I decided this was the right time.”
One of Morrison’s priorities is education reform. He is calling for an end to the funding system that forces school districts to rely on referendums, supports consolidating school districts and argues that the state needs to better spread out money among districts.
“You have some districts that are just rolling in money and you have other districts that are struggling to provide the most basic things to their students,” he said. “In my view, I have just as big of a vested interest in seeing that a child downstate gets a good education as I do my own child.”
His other priorities include expanding access to health care by allowing people to buy into Medicaid, as well as addressing the overdevelopment he says has exacerbated poor infrastructure in his district.
On the November ballot, he will face Republican Tripp Keister and Libertarian Bill Hinds.