Your All-Purpose SD 10 Special Election Preview

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on February 9, 2017

The Date: Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, polls open from 7 am to 8 pm.

The Stakes: Control of the Delaware State Senate.

The Party Standard Bearers:  John Marino (R); Stephanie Hansen (D); Joseph Lanzendorfer (L).

The District:

The 10th SD’s northern boundary takes in southern portions of Newark.  The district runs south from there along Delaware’s western border through Glasgow, crosses the C and D Canal, and then meanders southeast to take in Odessa and a significant portion of Middletown.

Delaware State Senate District 10

Voting and Registration Demographics:

Current Voter Registration by %:  45.3% D; 28.3% R; 26.4 I or Other Party.  Current Registration Numbers:  16,165 D; 10,113 R; 9,395 I and Other.

2016 Presidential Election:  I did the figuring by ED for the Clinton vs. Trump race.  In a two-way race, Clinton defeated Trump, 12,673 to 9,497.  57% to 43%.

The Candidates:

John Marino (R):  Marino is a retired New York City cop. Since moving to Delaware, he has been a realtor with Patterson-Schwartz, and is listed as the President of J & J Homes LLC, about which I’ve tried, but have found, nothing. I also tried, but failed, to find out anything about Marino’s NYC police career.  Meaning, we are forced to take his word for it that he is a ‘highly-decorated hero’ cop.  Here is his campaign bio.

Marino has previously run twice for state legislative positions.  Following the resignation of State Rep. Dick Cathcart in 2010, Marino ran to be his R successor in the 9th RD.  He handily defeated Anthony Mirto in the Republican primary, then lost to D Rebecca Walker by 282 votes in the general election.  As a result, this seat shifted to the D’s from the R’s.  The R’s have since subsequently retaken this seat following Walker’s decision not to run after getting a highly-dubious job in the Medical Examiner’s Office.  Kevin Hensley is the current rep from the 9th.

While Marino almost won this seat, keep in mind that there was at least one extenuating circumstance.  Walker had previously challenged, and lost to Cathcart.  In 2010, she announced that she would not seek the seat.  The D Committee endorsed Richard Griffiths for the seat.  Cathcart then resigned and, per the Delaware Way, almost immediately got himself a golden parachute as City Manager of Delaware City. Which led to this (Nobody covers the 9th like LG covers the 9th).  Needless to say, Walker butting back in front of the line pissed off a lot of D’s.  And, she was a terrible candidate when it came to getting out and meeting voters.  So, we don’t know just how strong Marino’s challenge was that year and how lackluster the Walker campaign was.

In 2014, Marino challenged Bethany Hall-Long for the 10th SD seat.  In an uncomfortably close win for the D’s, Hall-Long edged out Marino by a 267-vote margin.  However, once again, there was a huge extenuating circumstance.  Hall-Long appeared to be cruising to reelection when this happened.  You see the date of the story? Less than a week before the election, Hall-Long’s husband gets caught stealing Republican signs.

This is not meant to suggest that Marino won’t win.  I just wanted to point out that, despite two narrow losses, he might not be ‘All That’ as a candidate.  In some ways, considering how the D’s underperformed in 2014, it’s kind-of a miracle that BHL won.

Stephanie Hansen (D):  Stephanie Hansen previously won election to the post of President of New Castle County Council, defeating R Richard Abbott by over 30,000 votes.  She served from 1997 to 2001. She is currently an environmental attorney with Young, Conaway, Stargatt, and Taylor.  She specializes in Brownfields redevelopment, which is the restoration and repurposing of environmentally-compromised sites. She previously was an environmental scientist and hydrologist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Superfund and Underground Storage Tank Branches.  Back in the early 1990’s, Hansen founded the Bear/Glasgow Council of Civic Organizations.

Hansen’s political career took a rocky detour in 1991 when her involvement with then-Councilman Chris Roberts became known.  The two subsequently married. In 1992, a ‘federal grand jury indicted New Castle County Councilman J. Christopher Roberts on charges of bribery, extortion and tampering with a witness, capping a 45-month investigation into his vote on a county housing development. The former New Castle County councilman accused of soliciting a bribe pled guilty in federal court to a lesser charge of accepting $4,400 that he did not report on his income-tax return.’ Colm Connolly couldn’t make the major charges stick, but he nailed Roberts for not reporting a ‘bribe’ as income.’

So, yes, she has some baggage.  I knew her professionally b/c she was an invaluable resource in helping Sen. Dave McBride craft Delaware’s Brownfields statute while I worked in the Senate.  All I can say is, she really knew her stuff.

The Campaign So Far:

At this point, we can view the two major candidates as proxies for their parties.  Neither is a particularly compelling candidate.  So, the R theme is that it’s time to change over 40 years of D control of the Senate and that everything bad is the fault of Democrats.  Up until recently, I would have been hard-pressed to cite the D theme. However, and this may prove to be the tipping point for this race,  Trump Revulsion has become the driving force behind the D’s efforts.  In fact, if this election had been held in January, I think the R’s would almost certainly have been shoo-ins.  An energized R party chasing a big prize, a demoralized D party forced to defend a seat that was vacant only b/c of the ambition of BHL.  However, it’s clear that both parties are now engaged to the highest degree.  Hansen’s campaign has received an infusion of volunteer enthusiasm in large part due to people wanting to channel their disgust with Trump into the only game in town.  The irony, of course, being that neither Marino nor Hansen appear likely to deviate much from the Delaware Way, which I find disappointing. This could well end up a referendum on Trump, which the R’s clearly don’t want.

My Prediction…:

…will air during the 5:30 telecast of WHYY’s First show this Friday on TV 12. (And you thought I’d scoop myself…)

OK, guys, I  know a lot of you are involved in this campaign. What are you seeing and what do you think? Fill in the blanks.

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  1. I forgot to mention this. Should Marino be elected, he would join Senators Bruce Ennis and Dave Lawson, plus Reps. John Mitchell, Pete Schwartzkopf, and Steve Smyk as ex-cops in the General Assembly. Plus former Secretary of Public Safety Brian Bushweller (the agency that housed the State Police at the time). Helene Keeley’s husband is also a police officer. Did I miss anybody?

  2. Jason330 says:

    Great rundown. Hansen Is a legit Dem. I heard great stuff during the debates. “Right to work FOR LESS” for example. Don’t know if that translates into bucking the Delaware way, but some bring like a Dem is my litmus test.

  3. Josh W says:

    Funnily enough, “the right to work for less” line came from Schwartzkopf, at least according to Stephanie.

    Anyway, good rundown Som. You’re right on the money with the Trump revulsion. At the beginning of my time on the campaign, about mid-January, there was a real sense of voter fatigue and most of the people we talked to had no idea about the special election in the first place. It really felt like we were going to lose. Then Trump gets sworn into office and slowly you could feel the level of enthusiasm start to ratchet up on the Democratic side. I had one neighborhood that I was canvassing where practically every person I talked to seemed spitting mad about what was going on, and seemed eager to cast a vote if it meant sticking a thumb in the eye of Trump.

    Of course that doesn’t mean Stephanie is going to win, but I’m much more optimistic than I was at the beginning of the year.

  4. mediawatch says:

    Fake news?
    A friend of mine, who is in a position to know, says Keeley’s husband works in the state treasurer’s office and has never been a cop.
    I can’t confirm, but might be worth a double-check.

  5. Momentum is a funny thing. When you’ve been ahead and have pretty much maxed out, there’s no worse feeling than running in quicksand. I’ve been there, on both sides of the Big Mo. I’m sure that’s how Tom Gordon felt in the last couple of weeks of his campaign against Matt Meyer.

    And every day brings people new reason to do anything, even voting in a Special Election, to express their revulsion at the latest Trump horror.

    MW, I’ll take your word for it. My memory clearly is not what it used to be.

  6. jason330 says:

    Josh W, I also really liked “He thinks working families have it too good!” Which was in the same riff as the Right to work for Less. I wish I could post clips from that debate.

  7. ‘Right to Work For Less’ is not a new slogan. Here’s an Op-Ed from 2015 using the term:

    I also think Cassandra posted a piece here with that hed several months ago.

    Not to say that it isn’t effective, though.

  8. Rufus Y. Kneedog says:

    The campaign mailer carpet bombing has begun. I got one from each yesterday both with an education theme, Hansen: endorsed by the DSEA, higher pay for teachers; Marino: the Delaware legislature is failing our children and I have a plan to fix it.
    I thought it was odd because I don’t see it as a major issue in the campaign.

  9. Keep in mind, Rufus, that this is all about turnout. Always low in a special election.

    Issues that matter to teachers may drive more teachers out to vote…although the DSEA election makes that less than certain…although Secretary DeVos might impel more teachers to the polls.

    DSEA always does the mailer. How well they mobilize their membership could be a key in a close race.

  10. BTW, for those who missed it, I made my prediction right here on WHYY’s First last night:

    BTWBTW, Stephanie Hansen is interviewed in the follow-up segment.

    BTWBTWBTW, John Marino was invited for an interview. He declined, claiming he wanted to spend the time in the district…at 10:30 am on a Wednesday morning. Wonder what hands he was shaking at that hour of the day.

  11. jason330 says:

    Great job El Som. (He starts at about the 630 mark). Hansen follows. I liked her dig on Mario’s alternative facts.

  12. Jason–Do you concur with my prediction?

  13. jason330 says:

    Yeah. Close but if Hansen can keep the Trump revulsion in the forefront, she should win.