The Campaign Spot

A Little-Noticed Winning Streak for Delaware Republicans

One other thought about next year’s Senate race in Delaware. One of my readers in that state, Bill, noted that there have been three special elections in the state won by Republicans recently:

On Saturday, September 12, in an open House seat in the 37th representative district in Delaware (Sussex County – Lewes/Georgetown area), the GOP candidate, Ruth Briggs-King, upset favored Democratic candidate Rob Robinson, who was expected to win this special election. Robinson had more newspaper endorsements, more infrastructure, more money, and frankly was the more polished candidate.  Briggs-King won the election by a margin of 53-47 or better. The demographics of this district are essentially even between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats still have a majority in the House, but winning this seat would have given the Democrats the 3/5 majority needed to pass all tax and spending bills without any GOP input or support.

This special election was necessitated when the previous House member, Rep. Joe Booth (GOP), won a special election to the State Senate just one month ago to fill the vacancy created by the sudden death of the State Senate Pro Tempore Thurman Adams (D), who was an institution in Delaware. Vice President and Mrs. Biden dropped everything to come to the Adams funeral, and Senator Adams’ daughter, Polly Adams Murvine, was subsequently selected by the Democratic committee in that district to run for her late father’s Senate seat. Rep. Booth (GOP) crushed Ms. Adams-Murvine in the August special election by a 2-1 margin, carrying even the Bridgeville area – the home base of her father’s political apparatus.

The first special election occurred in December 2008, when the Republicans won a special election in northern Delaware in an area known as Claymont – a heavily blue-collar Democratic district. The previous Democratic incumbent had handily won the general election race, and then resigned to move to Colorado (husband career change). The Democratic Party was understandably furious, and the GOP pulled off a quiet and stunning upset in this Democratic district in December.

That’s 3 in a row for the GOP in Delaware in competitive or Democratic districts.

Now, it’s worth remembering that special elections are different. You have to remind your grassroots supporters to vote on a different day. Usually there’s little or no advertising. Turnout is a fraction of normal levels. Random factors like the weather can have a magnified effect.

But I suspect what you’re seeing in Delaware is similar to what you’ve seen in special elections in Northern Virginia earlier this year. Last November, Republicans had their teeth knocked in by highly motivated Democrats. A lot of wavering, unmotivated, or apathetic Republicans are now watching Democrats run government and are recoiling, and getting more motivated. And on the flip side, Democratic grassroots who worked throughout 2008 are less motivated after victories.

Will that make a difference on a “normal” Election Day? We’ll see in this November’s governor’s races. It probably won’t make a huge difference. But Castle’s decision was probably reassured by the fact that his state GOP has a pulse again.

Bill adds, “Castle’s announcement is timed to coincide with the [GOP’s] 25th Annual Salute [honoring] U.S. Rep. Mike Castle at the Vicmead Hunt Club in Greenville, Delaware, to be held this Friday evening. The honorary chairs of this event will be the three new members of the Legislature who won special election victories: Senator Joe Booth; Representative Tom Kovach; and Representative Ruth Briggs King.”

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