Delaware Elections 2018: United States Senate, aka the Race to Change the Face of Delaware Politics

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on March 13, 2017

This race has the potential to be the most important Delaware race in at least 45 years.  In 1972, upstart Joe Biden defeated incumbent US Senator J. Caleb Boggs in a year where the D’s suffered defeat after defeat (It was the Nixon defeats McGovern presidential landslide).

It’s quite possible that the 2018 US Senatorial race could be another transformational election. In fact, it will be if my dream scenario plays out.

Incumbent Tom Carper has been an elected official since 1976, when he first became State Treasurer.  He has been the de facto leader of the Democratic Party since the mid-1980’s, when he overthrew the New Castle County D ‘machine’ that had been controlled by Gene Reed.  In so doing, he flushed the system clean of trade union money that largely changed hands in bags in order to make way for campaign cash transported by computer from Delaware’s financial institutions to the state Democratic Party. And to Carper’s campaign coffers.

He has effectively controlled the Party ever since, promoting his ‘children’ to run for public office and, in the case of John Carney, forcing Ruth Ann Minner to put him on the ticket as her Lieutenant Governor nominee. In so doing, he has placed a premium on those who share his Chamber of Commerce worldview and, through his control of the Party, has largely discouraged significant grassroots access to the so-called Democratic coalition. When Ed Freel and party leaders gathered to decide where to prioritize, liberals in particular were almost always on the outside looking in. Better a Chamber R than a liberal D.

With the rise of some genuine grassroots candidacies this year, ranging from Bernie Sanders at the presidential level, to the campaigns of Bryan Townsend, Matt Meyer, and Eugene Young, among others, access to public office among the grassroots is far closer than it has been since, well, forever. We now have a burgeoning effective grassroots political movement in Delaware. With a relatively thin bench amongst the usual suspects, the time is ripe for newcomers to step in, run for office, and take over the Party.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at Tom Carper and his prospects for 2018.

On the surface, you would think that Carper’s prospects would be strong. In fact, however, he has never been more vulnerable.

First of all, here are some reading assignments for everyone:

You want to read more?  Just do a search on Delaware Liberal by typing in ‘Carper’.  There’s LOTS more. Carper’s been a disaster.

Delaware can no longer afford a DINO like Carper in the United States Senate.  No more Stockholm Syndrome Third Way D’s.

You’re saying, “That’s all fine, Steve, but how can we POSSIBLY challenge someone as entrenched as Carper?”  I’m glad you asked. Here’s how.

Like many incumbents who haven’t faced a tough race in at least twenty years, Carper has gotten older and hasn’t had to campaign all that hard.  We know that his health is not what it used to be.  We know that he is finally being challenged on his record. We don’t know how he’d hold up against a strong challenge.

And here’s what’s changed.  The entire political landscape has shifted with the election of Donald Trump.  The Delaware Way notion of ‘reaching across the aisle’ is now viewed as anathema among grassroots Democrats.

Here’s what else has changed.  For the first time in Carper’s lengthy reign, the forces are finally aligned for a serious challenge.  Not only are people creating a sustainable grassroots political presence in Delaware, but there is also at least one prospective candidate with the potential to both challenge Carper and to defeat Carper. If Carper even opts to take on the challenge.

Let me be clear.  Given no serious opposition, I would fully expect Carper to run again.  But what would he do if faced with an imposing challenger?  More than anybody, Carper knows the moment when it became clear that he would defeat Bill Roth and become a Senator.  That was the moment when Roth fainted during a televised interview and literally dropped out of the picture.  It was at least as bad as what happened to gubernatorial candidate Montgomery Burns when he spit out a piece of that three-eyed fish at the Simpsons dinner table.  It. Was. Over. How would Carper hold up intellectually and physically if presented with a vigorous challenger? Does he really want to be remembered for a moment just like what befell Roth?

Enough teasing.  Here’s my scenario, and I see it as a genuine possibility.  Between Delaware United, Network Delaware, and other closely-aligned grassroots organizations, we now have the volunteers, fundraising potential and enthusiasm to mount a significant challenge to Carper.  Oh, and I think we have the candidate.

While Network Delaware can impact elections up and down the ballot, there’s no way that Eugene Young has not considered how his own political future could be impacted by this organization that he has helped to create.

So here it is:  Eugene Young announces some time this year that he is exploring a run for Senator.  That would have the impact of (1) sending Carper out in search of more heavy-doody adult diapers; and (2) giving other potential candidates candidates pause before rushing into a political vacuum should Carper decide not to run.

Young is the ideal candidate for this race.  He almost won Wilmington’s mayoral office, losing only b/c of the calculus of one too many black candidates.  He made virtually no political enemies in the process, running an inclusive campaign that galvanized hundreds of volunteers throughout the state.  Even Carper took note, urging Mayor Mike to hire Young.  I think now you can see why.  If I were Carper, there’s no way I’d want to even consider the prospect of being primaried by him.

Another major advantage of a Young candidacy: Insurgent candidates up and down the ballot.  Tired of Charles Potter? You’ll have someone worth voting for. Margaret Rose Henry and Bob Marshall retiring? You’ll have alternatives with vision.

Oh, and should Young win, look at the future.  Bryan Townsend for governor in 2020? Why not?  Kim Williams and Sean Matthews moving up? Why not?  Like I said: A transformational election and an energized grassroots-based Democratic Party. A new Democratic Party. Not to mention a fitting coda to the DINOsaurs.

It can happen!

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  1. Jason330 says:

    Carper’s DLC style, chamber-of-commerce first policies are an anathema to most Democrats now, that checks out.

    But the “forces aligned for a serious challenge” are still very untested. Can Young afford to put his future in politics on the line based on the assumption that the grassroots political presence in Delaware is going to be a force? I’m not sure.

    I’d love for Delaware United and Network Delaware to notch some legislative wins as a sign that this is a durable movement.

  2. Young’s political future would no more be damaged by an unsuccessful challenge to Carper than it was by his mayoral run.

    The change is gonna happen and I’m convinced that Young will play a key role in that change. We don’t know when. I see the upside of the challenge as being totally worth it because I think he can win, at which point he is the most important elected official in Delaware. The downside? He has to wait a couple of years.

    Biden’s impulsive Senate run in 1972 wasn’t accompanied by existential angst. He just did it. I’d love to see Young just do it in 2018.

  3. bamboozer says:

    I agree that the time is right to end Carper and give the finger to “the third way”, now let’s make it happen. As noted a strong challenger may just well scare Carper out of office, but don’t bet on it. Now is the time, talk is not enough, it’s on to victory or 6 more years of old worthless.

  4. chris says:

    If money can flow into this primary from out of state, Young could walk into a US Senate seat. Wonder if Corey Booker would strongly discourage him from taking on TC?

  5. jason330 says:

    Of course Corey Booker would strongly discourage him from taking on TC. You don;t get to be Corey Booker without encountering those types of compromises. The better question is would Young be susceptible to Corey Booker’s influence on the topic.

  6. ralph says:

    In an ideal world, Young would be able to build legislative experience before running for US Senate. I would vote for him but that would be a hard obstacle for his team to overcome, campaign-wise. I would not concur that he lost because of too many black candidates. That gives the Wilmington community much too little credit.

    As for Townsend running for governor, don’t make me laugh.

  7. puck says:

    Establishment Dems would do to Young what they did to Chip Flowers. Or at least they would try.

  8. Liberal Follower says:

    You guys are clueless and seem to think more than 20% of Delaware buys your extremist agenda. They don’t.

    Democrats run the state because the so called republican leadership is so STUPID

  9. Alby says:

    We don’t have an extremist agenda, you deep-fried turd on a stick. You and your Republican cronies do.

    So, in your version of reality, Republicans in Delaware have simply been STUPID since 1992. Which brings up the question, if your agenda is so popular, why won’t a majority in the educated parts of the state vote for it?

  10. Alby says:

    “I would not concur that he lost because of too many black candidates. That gives the Wilmington community much too little credit.”

    What you mean there is that you’re giving the Wilmington community too much credit. Look it up — ever since black candidates began running for mayor, the winners in open elections always belong to whichever race has fewer candidates.

    It’s not about “giving credit,” chief. It’s about using your faculties of reason to analyze the facts.

  11. ralph says:

    both statements can be true, Alby. My faculties of reason have led to the analysis that saying too many black candidates is the main reason Eugene Young lost is a flawed conclusion.

  12. RE Vanella says:

    Extremist Agenda! So ridiculous it’s hilarious. I’m using that one again.

    Arguing for a very tiny population of wealthy people to pay a tiny percentage more in tax so the schools are decent and the bridges don’t collapse is absolutely out of control!

    Proud extremist…

  13. Alby says:

    Which two statements? And I’d love to hear what your reasoning is — why Theo Gregory and Norm Griffiths took more votes away from Purzycki than from Young.

  14. ralph says:

    1. I’m right

    2. you’re wrong

    see? Both are true

  15. Alby says:

    Wow. Deep.

    So you can’t articulate your position?

  16. Huh? says:

    Carper won his last primary with more than 80% of the vote. To say EY’s loss in this primary is no worse than his first loss is absurd. Of course your second loss is worse. Ask Sean Barney.

  17. There’s just one teensy-weensy difference. You’d have to search far and wide (with the exception of John Carney) to find a less inspiring candidate than Sean Barney. Who, BTW was one of Carper’s ‘children’. The ‘brain’ of Carper’s Third Way, in fact.

    You’d have to search far and wide to find a more inspiring candidate than Eugene Young.

    Other than that, your analogy is spot-on.

  18. Jason330 says:

    Who was TCs last primary opponent? Karen Hartly Nagle?

  19. How quickly we have forgotten–Keith Spanarelli.

    I still don’t know who the bleep he was. But he got 12.1% of the primary vote against Carper in 2012.

    Oh, and get this. Both he and Rose Izzo endorsed Alex Pires in 2012 after getting paid consultant gigs w/Pires’ campaign.

    I love Delaware politics.

  20. mouse says:

    Alex would be a lot better than either of our corporate own senators