Delaware’s Most Important Legislative Race Of 2018

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on September 25, 2018

I was tempted to call this the ‘only’ important race of 2018, but that’s probably an overstatement.

However, the contest between incumbent Greg Lavelle and Laura Sturgeon has loads of implications beyond the boundaries of the 4th Senatorial District.  It is not only a referendum on the Delaware Republican Party and one of its leading propagandists, but a Sturgeon win could have major implications for the revitalization of what has been a hidebound Senate Democratic Caucus. Here’s why this race is so important:

1. Greg Lavelle is a partisan Republican in thrall to some of the most right-wing elements of the Party. In other words, he’s not Cathy Cloutier. Lavelle scored a 100% rating from the Delaware Family Policy Council.  You know, the ‘rights of the unborn child’ people.  Cloutier, by contrast, scored a 0% rating from them. In a post-Roe/Wade era, Lavelle has consistently demonstrated where his allegiances will lie.  He represents an ongoing threat to the health and rights of women.  As Senate Minority Leader, Lavelle has parroted R talking points whenever a microphone materializes.  When one doesn’t materialize, he creates one, as in this creamy froth over Occupy Delaware. He supported protecting the Catholic Diocese against victims of pedophile priests, which is par for the course for someone who consistently sides with the overlords. Just this last session, Lavelle cast a key vote against permitting a debate over an assault weapons ban.  While I could cite Lavelle’s record chapter and verse (and will, if requested), my point is that he is well to the right of the district he represents.

2. Too many cops, not enough teachers. Especially public school teachers. Other than Sean Matthews, who has been absolutely indispensable on education issues, the General Assembly has lacked the public education perspective for too long. Had there been more teachers in the General Assembly, I doubt that the hegemony of charter schools over education policy would have been as dominant as it is. Laura Sturgeon is a public school teacher, and, well, here is what she has to say about traditional public schools:

Traditional Public Schools

My compassion for each and every one of my students and their families compels me to be a strong voice in support of robust public school funding that includes an array of services to address more than just the students’ academic needs. When public schools are well-funded we can do more than educate children: we can feed them, provide them with physical and psychological wellness services, direct them to programs that can help them purchase eye-glasses, counsel them on their career and higher education options, and provide a safe, quiet place to study that is equipped with the computers and software they need to do their homework and conduct research. Many of our students do not get all this at home. When we provide all these services at school, we increase the chances these students will leave us and become productive citizens.

IMHO, Delaware simply must reemphasize support and funding for traditional public schools. With Laura Sturgeon in the State Senate, the likelihood of doing so increases measurably.

3. A more progressive Senate, and a more progressive Senate Democratic Caucus. This is really important, and I don’t think a whole lot of people, even progressives, have realized the potential impact of a Sturgeon win.  First, you add by subtracting an intransigent partisan in Lavelle, Second, Sturgeon’s platform provides real hope for reform. For example, she supports the assault weapons ban that Lavelle helped bury in the Senate. One more vote was all that was needed.

Here’s where I get excited.  We already know that Tizzy Lockman and Darius Brown will be members of the Caucus, replacing long-time members Margaret Rose Henry and Bob Marshall. We know that Trey Paradee will likely replace Brian Bushweller, which is a nominal upgrade, at least on issues like minimum wage. I cannot overstate how much that caucus needs new energy.  Now, add to the mix Laura Sturgeon, who will have defeated a powerful incumbent, add in Bryan Townsend, Dave Sokola (on everything but charter schools), and you have the makings of a strong progressive bloc in Delaware.  Hey, maybe even Stephanie Hansen will tag along.

Then consider that the following senior citizens are up in 2020: Harris McDowell, Dave McBride, and Bruce Ennis. It is likely that not all will run for reelection, and I think it’s likely that McBride, in particular, is vulnerable to a D challenge in a primary.  The district has such a D tilt that the winner of the primary will be the new senator.  In order to survive, McBride and McDowell will have to tack to the left (it’s easier for McDowell), and even that may not be enough.  My point is that there is likely to be a vibrant Senate D Caucus in 2019 if Sturgeon wins, and an even more vibrant progressive caucus in 2021.

4. Ongoing D Control Of The State Senate. This only matters, IMHO, if Point 3 above is fully realized. However, from a purely partisan standpoint, a Sturgeon win will almost certainly lead to a 12-9 D edge.  With Cathy Cloutier possibly retiring from what is now a solidly-D senate district (Sean Matthews, are you paying attention?), and with Anthony Delcollo likely eyeing higher office sometime soon, the D edge in the Senate could well be cemented for years to come. Even if Bruce Ennis’ district were to flip in 2020, which I believe is unlikely.

5. Down Ballot. Let’s look a bit more closely at SD 4. As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s only been in the past year or so that the number of registered D’s have surpassed the number of registered R’s. Current registration is 12,739 D; 12,029 R; and 9,431 I. There are a total of 24 election districts in SD 4.  Three of those districts are in Gerald Brady’s RD 4. He doesn’t have an opponent, so they don’t matter too much. However, 11 of the ED’s are in RD 12, where Krista Griffith is challenging Deborah Hudson.  While I remain skeptical of Griffith’s chances, having a strong candidate like Sturgeon just above her on the ballot can’t hurt.

Perhaps more importantly, and perhaps more decisively, Sturgeon will be listed on the ballot right above two very competitive House races, each with a D woman running against an R man (I firmly believe that women will vote in proportionately higher numbers this year, which is why I’m beating this point to death).  First, there are 3 ED’s from the 21st RD. This is the district where Stephanie Barry is challenging Mike Ramone. The three ED’s from the 21st have a total of 1600 D’s; 1112 R’s; and 1079 I.

Then, check out the 22nd RD, where Guillermina Gonzalez faces Michael Smith to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Joe Miro. 7 ED’s of the 22nd are in SD 4.  The registration numbers: 4306 D; 3603 R; 3177 I.

I should also reverse my point and argue that these competitive races create Up Ballot synergy as well. 

In other words, the Sturgeon-Lavelle race will likely influence, and will likely be influenced by, these three competitive House races. In a year when women who are sick of Trump will be the most motivated to vote.

While on the surface the Sturgeon-Lavelle race is just another hotly contested battle, I believe I’ve demonstrated that it’s much more than that.

Feel free to prioritize your time and money accordingly.


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  1. RE Vanella says:

    Agree with all this.

    Only one small quibble, if I may.

    Don’t forget Don Allan. The guy is grinding like mad. He’s also an underdog, but let’s try to walk and chew gum simultaneously.

    • Joshua W says:

      REV we’ve got to stop agreeing like this. What will people say about our rivalry?

      Don Allan is running an amazing, energetic campaign and while his election might not have as many immediate implications on the General Assembly as Laura Sturgeon’s, it will be the narrow end of the wedge to start breaking the Republican’s iron grip on Sussex county.

      • RE Vanella says:

        No rivalry! Pretty sure we’ve always agreed. You just needed a pep talk once.

        🙂 🙂

        (By the way, the last photo I saw was Allan canvassing in the rain with one Joshua W. on the clip board.)

  2. Beach says:

    I really like Krista Griffith’s chances. The primary helped her ramp up the campaign operations, and from what I’ve seen, her team has a smart strategy.

  3. I don’t mean to downplay her chances. But the registration numbers remain daunting, and she’s running against another woman.

    I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, though. In order for her to win, she will have to attract a significant number of R’s.

    • Beach says:

      For the 12th? Not sure if you were replying to me or the main post 🙂
      But for the 12th: The numbers aren’t too bad. As of this month:
      D: 7,073 [+400 voters from 2014]
      R: 7,351 [-500 voters from 2014]
      I: 5,414 [+100 voters from 2014]
      Dems still have a slight registration disadvantage but there’s a +900 improvement since 2014. Republicans traditionally have a little bit of a turnout % advantage in Delaware; however, if this Nov. election follows local and national trends, Dems will have the turnout % advantage, plus Indys are choosing D over R by around 9 to 11%.
      I have zero connection to Krista’s campaign but if she’s campaigning the way I think she is, then I think she’ll win by 5% or 6%.

      • Alby says:

        Many of those “D’s” are people who defected to vote for Markell. In the last election, running unopposed, Hudson got 9,800 votes.

        You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not excited about Griffith anyway. More law enforcement people in the General Assembly is not the recipe for improvement I”m looking for.

        • Beach says:

          Sorry, I’m missing what you’re saying regarding #s 🙂
          I’m comparing the registration #s of 2014 to 2018; Markell’s pull of Rs and Is to the Ds was in 2008.

          • Alby says:

            I”m saying they’re not really Democrats, and when they defected is immaterial.

            • Beach says:

              2008 = Markell “Defection”
              2014 = D: 6,672 / R: 7,841 / I: 5,322
              2018 = D: 7,073 / R: 7,351 / I: 5,414

              • Alby says:

                Let me see if you can comprehend this: If they defected in 2008 and have stayed D ever since, then the D number is inflated from what it really is NO MATTER WHEN THEY DEFECTED. I don’t care that they gained 500 registrations. There’s no history of anyone in that district voting for a Democratic representative.

                If you want to put money on this, let me know how much.

                • Beach says:

                  I love gambling! What’s the bet?

                  If we’re looking at voter registrations surrounding the Markell / Carney primary, then Dems gained 700 from 2006 to 2008, but Reps and Indys each only about lost 100 each. So if we pretend that every voter from the Rs and Is is a defection to the Dems, then there’s only 200 imposter Dems, and that’s assuming zero of them died or switched back to their original registration in the 10 years since.
                  Note: the 12th district went through some major changes in 2012 that actually made it more Republican but that change has been pretty much wiped away by consistent decline in Rep registrations, and gains in Dem and Indy registrations.

                  • Alby says:

                    I take Hudson, you take Griffith.

                    I don’t know where you live, but I live near that district and know dozens of people there, including a lot of R-to-Markell voters. They’ve never heard of Griffith.

                    You can only learn so much by registration numbers. In Texas, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, but that’s not the way they vote.

                    • Beach says:

                      Sweet, $50? Who can hold the $ for us?
                      I live next to Rockford Park.
                      I lived and campaigned in Texas but Rs have a better turnout % everywhere.

                    • Alby says:

                      We can give it to El Som if you don’t trust me. Actually, I’m good for it, but I won’t be in the country for the election so you won’t be able to collect until after Thanksgiving.

                      Also, if I win, you can just donate the $50 to the Democrat of your choice, unless it’s Pete Schwartzkopf.

                      And, with all due respect, turnout alone doesn’t explain the numbers in Texas. If you don’t vote in primaries, and most people don’t, you rarely bother to change your registration. I suspect 10% of the “Democrats” in Texas are leftover Dixiecrats. The same is true in Sussex County.

                      Further, remember that registration rolls are not purged, so there are plenty of people on there who don’t even live in Delaware. I know this because one of my children, who hasn’t lived here in 14 years, is still registered at my address.

                      Oh, and my condolences on having to live in Texas, and congratulations on getting out alive.

                  • I LOVE your obsession with numbers. I have that same obsession. As I said, far be it from me to discourage you. And, while many Markell D’s switched from R, the current state of the Republican Party has discouraged them from changing back. And those same voters (not the ones in RD 12, but still…) elected Purzycki mayor in Wilmington.

                    • Alby says:

                      Yes, they did. But they have no gripe with Debbie Hudson, so I don’t think they’ll vote against her. Which is why I’m willing to put money on it.

                      The question I’d be interested in if I lived there is simple: Which side of the blue line will she stand on?

                    • Beach says:

                      “I’m good with calculation.”
                      But, there are some other positive things that stand out to me. There are particular messaging and campaign techniques that are successful from my experience. I believe the right combo of things are falling into place.

                    • Alby says:

                      I’m still more interested in whose side she’s on. I know Hudson is the enemy. I don’t trust anyone with law enforcement experience and a D after his or her name until I know which side of the blue line she stands on.

                      Who said, “I’m good with calculation”?

  4. jason330 says:

    “Hey, maybe even Stephanie Hansen will tag along.” HA!

    • When it comes to who will lead the Party in the Senate, alliances are important and sometimes unlikely.

      For example, Karen Peterson supported Patti Blevins for Pro-Tem in exchange for Blevins committing to enable progressive legislation to make it to the Senate floor.

      McBride proved far less hospitable to enabling progressive legislation to make it to the floor. He must be replaced as Pro-Tem.

      While the deal-cutting may sometimes be ugly, something good can come out of it. I don’t see Hansen as being intransigently in any camp. She’ll cut the deal that is best for her. It’s at least possible that it’ll be better for the public as well.

  5. mouse says:

    I just spoke in front of Sussex Council telling them they need to protect forests, drinking water resources, the inland bays and recreational waters, that their current policies are allowing our quality of life to be mined and extracted by developers, that inland bays are a polluted dead zone with signs warning against swimming and eating shellfish from their polices, every left turn off of main roads is dangerous and that they should consider their legacy when their grand kids ask why they let Sussex County turn into an urbanized hell.

    • Alby says:

      They probably viewed you as a guy in a robe and a long white beard carrying a “Repent!” sign.

      • RE Vanella says:

        How do we know mouse doesn’t have a long white beard with a sign the reads “REPENT!”

        • mouse says:

          I went to a CSN concert a while back and Graham Nash had this nice short haired look. I was at that moment that I realized that an old guy with a grey pony tail looks pretty sad lol. I do wear a sea glass necklace though. Sam Wilson didn’t even seem to know where he was or what he was doing. The rest are mostly rich white trash Fix News types. Wish someone in the legislature gave a damn about the coastal region and it’s state wide and regional significance..

  6. Alby says:

    I’m not sure who you’re talking about, but it doesn’t matter, because the response is the same — So what? I don’t elect people because they volunteer. Indeed, I view such service by people planning a political career evidence of falsity. I automatically vote against anyone who lists volunteer fire company membership, for example, because those fire companies are cesspools of political nepotism.

    Once people are in office, any kind of “service” amounts to lobbying. So I’ll judge by my own standards, thanks just the same, and leave you to your sorry attacks.