2014: The Year for Primaries in Delaware [Updated with Townsend Statement]

Filed in Delaware by on February 21, 2014

A note on the chart. If the candidate has a asterisk by his or her name, they are the incumbent. If the candidate’s name is bolded, they have already filed to run. If a candidate’s name is not bolded, they are either a candidate that is expected to run, or an incumbent who has not yet filed to run.

A couple of mistakes/typos in the chart to explain. In the 11th, I forgot to add in Lynn Newlin, probably because I could not make it to her fundraiser last night. And Rebecca Walker is an incumbent. I forgot to put the asterisk next to her name in the 9th.

The chart is starting to fill in. But a lot of candidate recruiting remains, especially on the Republican side. One trend is clear: 2014 will feature a lot of primaries. Which makes some sense to a certain extent. Delaware is in many ways a one party state now. Some voters and some candidates recognize that and join the dominant majority party (the Democrats) and then the Democratic Primary is now the only place where there is a competitive election. Perhaps that is why we already have a primary for the 18th Senate District between Gary Wolfe and Patrick Emory.

Other primaries result from the actions and performance of the incumbent in office. These kind of primaries take three forms. First, you can have an organic, grass roots affair with a progressive newcomer challenging an entrenched establishment figure. That was certainly the case with Senator Tony Deluca v. Bryan Townsend in 2012. Second, you can have an incumbent so incompetent and/or vulnerable that multiple challengers enter the race. Indeed, the incumbent might be so incompetent and vulnerable that even the state party establishment will turn its back and endorse one of the challengers. And example of this is the 2012 Insurance Commissioner’s race with Karen Weldin Stewart, Mitch Crane, Dennis Spivak and Paul Gallagher. Finally, you can have a situation where the incumbent has pissed off the establishment in some way. It could be that the incumbent is rightfully (or wrongfully) challenging the status quo. Or it could be that the incumbent has several scandals that are damaging to the party’s chances of keeping the office should the incumbent be the nominee. Or it could be both, if your name is Chip Flowers. And so the establishment puts up a candidate against the incumbent in the hopes that the incumbent will lose.

With all due respect to Sean Barney, who I have heard great things about from multiple and varied sources, which I will no doubt confirm when I meet with him; his challenge of Treasurer Flowers is certainly perceived to be a primary of the third kind mentioned above. And yet, this treasurer’s race is not a slam dunk for the establishment or Mr. Barney.

Karen Weldin Stewart proved how hard it is to remove an embarrassing or incompetent incumbent in 2012. Chip Flowers has a base of support, and it is a vocal and involved base of support, as you can tell from our comment sections whenever we talk about him here at DL. While Mr. Flowers has had an expenses scandal for both himself and one of his employees, he has not really been incompetent in office like Ms. Stewart was. He just shook things up and (rightly or wrongly) challenged the status quo. So Mr. Barney faces those challenges as well as the added challenge of being his own man in this race so as to fight off the perception that he is Governor Markell’s pick or puppet or proxy in his feud with Treasurer Flowers.

If Chip Flowers runs, this Treasurers race will be the marquee event of 2014 for Delaware.

But then again, I keep hearing that Governor Markell wants primaries for Senator Bryan Townsend (D) and Representative John Kowalko (D) for reasons passing understanding or logic. Both Townsend and Kowalko are to the left of Markell certainly, and have challenged Markell on several legislative issues, but for Markell to get so involved in their races that he would order primaries of both or either is so petty that it is almost Tom-Gordon-esque. Or Chris Christie-esque. Take your pick, Jack. The Governor will be well advised to keep his primary meddling limited to the Treasurer’s race.

UPDATE: After publishing this story, I received this emailed statement from Senator Bryan Townsend (D):

Earlier this week I met with the Governor to discuss important legislative issues in 2014, including proposals for enhancing Delaware’s infrastructure. At our meeting, the Governor expressed that he is looking forward to working together in 2014, and that he fully supports my 2014 re-election campaign.

Bryan Townsend
Senator, 11th District

That’s good to know, and I am glad my sources are wrong. Hopefully they are wrong in Kowalko’s case too.


As for how the other races are shaping up, here are some of my thoughts:

1. I think Trey Paradee is in trouble in the 29th RD. He seems to have a credible GOP challenger in Pete Kramer.
2. I am loving the 22nd RD race. Joe Miro v. Steve Newton v. John MacKenzie. And honestly, I have no idea who is going to win. Yes, even THE Delaware Libertarian could win.
3. We have rematches in the 11th and the 20th RDs, and in the 21st SD. Right now, I definitely see one of the challengers winning: Bryant Richardson over Bob Venables in the 21st SD. I have have to wait and see how the other races develop.
4. I’m curious to find out more about some downstate Democratic candidates have have gotten an early start: Gallo, Robbins, Rappa, Emory and Wolfe.


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Comments (27)

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  1. Jason330 says:

    …Governor Markell wants primaries for Townsend (D) and Kowalko (D)…

    If true, that is fucked up.

  2. Delaware Dem says:

    The unions are also involved, apparently. Deluca was a union patron. And Kowalko has been leading the charge against the UD Power Plant, angering some unions.

    Personally, I think Kowalko is safe in his district no matter what, since his constituents like and agree with him. Townsend is a rookie Senator, so I don’t know. But his style of continued door to door retail campaigning has to place him in good stead.

  3. cassandra_m says:

    Know what’s funny about this chart? No IPODers. For all of their bluster and bullshit and stickin’ it to the man rhetoric — not one of them has yet to step up.

  4. Jason330 says:

    IN S18, who has the best chance of beating Gary Simpson? The district looks like the northernmost part of SC with a little bit of southern Kent. A Democrat can win it (voter reg. approx 39%, 36%, 25% (not great because the I’s probably identify more as R’s).

    Emory is a longtime School Board member based in Milford. Wolfe also appears to be based in Milford.

    Whatever happens, I hope this is a friendly so the D’s can focus on beating Simpson.

  5. duty says:

    Simpson is a lock. Peterman beat Robbins last go around easily if I recall correctly. Gallo/Outten is interesting. Outten has had a free pass last couple elections. Gallo actually changed from R to D less than 2 years ago. Outten has said he would have retired and endorsed Gallo if he had stayed an R. Gallo is young and got early campaign start but Outten will be tough to beat.

  6. Great stuff. I don’t think Markell has been involved in primary challenges to Townsend and Kowalko. Think any possible primary challenges would more likely come from some unions who are not happy that either/both did not come out foursquare for the power plant project in Newark.

    They might be better off investing that money into a real labor alternative to, say, John Carney.

  7. Jason330 says:

    Let’s talk specifics. Dave Tackett is the name floating around a possible Townsend primary. Is Tackett a Markell guy or not? Here is his bio from the NCC site:


    Lifelong New Castle County resident
    Raising four children with his wife, April
    Active member, Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church
    7&40 Alliance Past President and Vice President
    Past Member of the New Castle County Planning Board (2000-2003)
    Varlano Civic Association Past President and Vice President
    BS Degree, Wilmington College
    Financial Secretary, Local 1284 International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    Amtrak employee, 14 years


    Restore public trust in an honest government
    Increase police and public services
    Preserving open space for families
    Expand Senior Services

  8. Delaware Dem says:

    One primary I forgot to talk about: Sean Matthews (pictured above) versus Representative Dennis E. Williams in the 10th RD. Dennis has his campaign warchest overfilled, probably fearing a rematch with Matthews and Rhodunda, who also looks like he is running, but he hasn’t filed yet.

    Thoughts on this primary?

  9. Delaware Dem says:

    Jason, that is a union guy, obviously. I trust Bryan when he says the Governor supports his reelection. And the statement came quickly enough that it was definitely an issue that they (Markell & Townsend) want to quash immediately.

    So the rumors I heard of primaries are obviously from the unions and not the Governor, so my apology to Governor Markell for jumping the gun (though the rumors I heard were that Markell was behind it).

  10. cassandra_m says:

    You should also add Ken Simpler as the GOP candidate for Treasurer, DD.

  11. So Tackett lives in Varlano, eh? So did Tony DeLuca.

    Nah, this primary, if it happens, will be created by some union guys. Tackett will get crushed. He can run b/c his council seat isn’t up this year.

  12. Jason330 says:

    El Som…enlighten me. What’s with the unions going after one of the most pro-labor guys in Leg Hall (Kowalko) and one of the most decent (Townsend)?

  13. AQC says:

    I hear Kowalko told the unions he would not fight the power plant and then did. Sort of his style. Townsend has been pissing off some people with a surprising arrogance, so that could be it.

  14. John Kowalko says:

    What you heard and what are the actual facts are once again mistaken by you and your self-aggrandizing willingness to portray yourself as an intimate player. To summarize; you know nothing about the situations you choose to opine about and should heed the proverbial advice of Mark Twain:
    “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”.
    If you ever feel the need to engage with me or presume to know my thoughts or feelings on any subject, drop your cowardly cloak of anonymity and give me a call. That’s my style.

    John Kowalko

  15. Gary Wolfe says:

    Previously ran against Sam Wilson in 2012, and prior to that 10 years with Milford Board of Education serving alongside his primary opponent.

  16. Not ‘the unions’ per se. Just some of the construction trades. You know, the guys who backed DeLuca. I think they’re just flexing their beer muscles.

  17. Nuttingham says:

    Breaking news: AQC has just filed to run against Kowalko.

  18. John Kowalko says:

    Are anonymous filings permitted? No head shot or website available or perhaps nothing in the head to keep it inflated long enough for a head shot.

  19. AQC says:

    Oh Quacko, drinking and reading the dictionary again.

  20. John Young says:


    If Markell desired to primary you, would he have said any different in your meeting? Seriously.

    His expressed interest in supporting your 2014 campaign is circumspect, at best. My guess: support = silence.

  21. John Young says:

    Jack Markell is a lame duck right now in my opinion. But he truly is a lame duck the second the November general is done. THE SECOND. I hope the GA behaves accordingly.

    Time to lead, and stop following.

  22. Nuttingham says:

    You know what people call a lame duck Governor?


  23. John, it’s easier to follow one leader than, say, 62.

    Especially when half the House, if not more, no longer follows its leader, Speaker Pete.

  24. Anon says:

    Trey is in big trouble, the democrats hate him because of the way he votes on big issues and republicans hate him because he’s a democrat… He’s probably gonna lose

  25. I dunno. He knocked off a pretty damn strong incumbent, and he’s a very savvy campaigner.

    While I’m not his biggest fan, I don’t see him in big trouble.

  26. Tom Kline says:

    Chip Flowers is dirt bag and should go away.

  27. saltyindependent says:

    i am hearing steve smyk may have an opponent in the primary…