Delawareans will go to the polls Tuesday to vote for president, governor, U.S. Senator, representative in congress and several local legislative races.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., though an unprecedented number of people have already cast mail-in ballots due to the pandemic.
Of the local races in the Newark area, the most closely watched will be the state house races in District 21 and District 22. The neighboring districts are just east of Newark’s municipal boundaries and encompass much of the Capitol Trail corridor, Pike Creek, North Star and part of Hockessin.
Both districts are home to more registered Democrats than Republicans but feature Republican incumbents trying to retain their seats in a part of the state that is increasingly hostile to the GOP.
In District 21, Mike Ramone, a business owner from the Chanterelle neighborhood, is seeking his sixth term in the state legislature. Challenging him is Stephanie Barry, a resident of Linden Hill Village, who lost to Ramone by just four percentage points in 2018.
In District 22, Mike Smith, who lives in Meeting House Hill and works as director of strategic initiatives and partnerships for the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences, is seeking his second term. Running against him is a political newcomer, Luann D’Agostino, a retired engineer from Cotswold Hills.
Smith won the seat in 2018 by only 140 votes.
Looking at voter registration, District 21 is 48 percent Democrats and 28 percent Republicans. District 22 is 39 percent Democrats and 33 percent Republicans.
The party disparity in both districts is wider than in 2018, with the GOP losing voters as the Democrats gained voters. That, coupled with high enthusiasm from Democrats and a Delawarean topping the national Democratic ticket for the first time in history, could leave Ramone and Smith facing an uphill fight for re-election.
Other state legislature races
In the District 9 Senate race, real estate agent and former Newark councilman Todd Ruckle, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Democrat Jack Walsh, who is seeking his second term.
In the District 24 house race, Democratic State Rep. Ed Osienski is seeking a sixth term, but must fend off a challenge from Republican Gregory Wilps, a political newcomer who works in pest and wildlife control and is pursuing an associate’s degree in theology.
In the District 26 house race, Madinah Wilson-Anton, a policy analyst at the UD’s Biden Institute who knocked off longtime state representative John Viola in the Democratic primary, is facing Republican Timothy Conrad, a transit supervisor at UD.
In the District 27 house race, Eric Morrison, who works in human resources at a bank and defeated incumbent Earl Jaques in the Democratic primary, is facing Republican Donald “Tripp” Keister III, a minor league baseball coach. Also in the race is Libertarian Bill Hinds, who also sought the seat two years ago. Meanwhile, Elias Weir is running a write-in campaign.
District 18’s David Bentz, District 23’s Paul Baumbach and District 25’s John Kowalko are all unopposed, as is District 8 State Sen. David Sokola.
County Council President Karen Hartley-Nagle, who survived a three-way primary in September, is running for her second term against Brian Whitaker from the Independent Party of Delaware. Whitaker is the city clerk for the city of New Castle.
County Executive Matt Meyer is unopposed on Tuesday’s ballot after defeating a primary challenger in September, though local boxer Mike “No Joke” Stewart is mounting a long-shot write-in campaign.
Lisa Darrah is unopposed in her run for clerk of the peace. She will replace longtime incumbent Ken Boulden, for whom she currently serves as deputy clerk.
Newark-area county councilmen David Tackett and Timothy Sheldon are also unopposed.
Democratic Gov. John Carney is seeking re-election in a race against Republican attorney Julianne Murray, who is suing Carney in federal court over a ban on short-term property rentals amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The race is seen partly as a referendum on Carney’s efforts to stop the virus’s spread, including business closures and restrictions that led to thousands of Delawareans filing unemployment claims in record-shattering numbers.
As of mid-August, state officials had received almost 134,000 unemployment claims since mid-March. Over that same period, Delawareans received more than $780 million in unemployment benefits, including $221 million from the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.
Carney says he’ll continue to work to protect Delawareans from the virus, address racial injustice issues, strengthen public schools and improve Delaware’s infrastructure.
Murray, a Sussex County criminal defense attorney, says she’d end Carney’s state of emergency. Her other priorities include attracting large companies wary of Delaware’s business taxes and high energy costs, focusing on public safety and helping the state’s poorly performing schools.
Also in the race for governor are Libertarian John Machurek and Kathy Dematteis, of the Independent Party of Delaware.
Other state races
The race for lieutenant governor pits incumbent Bethany Hall-Long against Republican Donyale Hall, a Dover resident who runs a contracting business.
Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro is being challenged by Republican Julia Pillsbury, a pediatrician from Dover.
This year’s U.S. Senate race in Delaware pits second-term incumbent Democrat Chris Coons against GOP newcomer Lauren Witzke.
Witzke is running on an “America First” platform that includes a 10-year moratorium on immigration, welfare reform limiting benefits to married couples with children and federal funding for faith-based substance abuse recovery programs. She also is a proponent of gun ownership rights.
She has promoted QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory alleging President Donald Trump is battling “deep state” enemies and a child sex trafficking network run by government officials, celebrities and business elites. She also has defended the Proud Boys, a male-only group of neo-fascists who describe themselves as “western chauvinists” and have been known to engage in street violence.
Coons has condemned Witzke’s “embrace” of the Proud Boys and said such groups “pose a real threat to public safety and everyday Delawareans and Americans.”
Coons, who has held his Senate seat since the 2010 special election, favors comprehensive immigration reform and has called Trump’s policies “cruel.” He is an advocate of abortion rights and stronger gun control measures.
Incumbent Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester is seeking a third term as Delaware’s lone U.S. representative.
Blunt Rochester, a former state labor secretary, was elected to the House in 2016. She is the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in Congress.
She’s being challenged by Lee Murphy, an actor and former teacher, coach and Amtrak conductor who won September’s GOP primary. Murphy narrowly lost the GOP House primary two years ago.
Blunt Rochester has sponsored 27 bills while in Congress, many aimed at improving or expanding access to health care. She also sponsored “Clean Slate” legislation seeking to seal certain criminal records to help lower societal barriers for ex-offenders. Blunt Rochester voted for Trump’s impeachment.
Murphy, a Trump supporter, says he’ll work to restore Delaware’s manufacturing base and bring pharmaceutical industry jobs back from China. Murphy retired after 35 years in the railroad industry to pursue an acting career. He’s appeared in commercials, film and the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.