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Democrats tighten stranglehold on Delaware politics

November 7, 2018

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A blue wave swept over the nation’s lowest-lying state Tuesday as Democrats tightened their stranglehold on Delaware, sweeping federal and statewide races and padding their margins in both chambers of the legislature.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper led the way for Democrats, winning a fourth term and keeping his unbeaten campaign record intact through more than four decades in politics.

“He’s done Delaware good,” said Rogette Clark, 54, of Felton, a registered Independent who voted for Carper. At the same time, Clark said she agreed with those who think Carper has been in Washington too long.

“But you have to have a stronger opponent against him,” she said.

Carper, who served five terms in the U.S. House and two terms as governor before being elected to the Senate in 2000, easily defeated Republican Rob Arlett, a Sussex County councilman who was Donald Trump’s state campaign chair in 2016.

Carper’s re-election followed his trouncing of a progressive challenger in a September Democratic primary, stemming an antiestablishment tide hoping to move the Democratic party to the left.

“I’ve had a primary before but never one from the left flank of our party like that,” Carper said. “That was unusual.”

Carper, 71, has staked out a position in Washington as a centrist lawmaker with a strong interest in environmental issues. During the campaign, he touted his experience and his ability to work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, despite being a vocal Trump critic, calling the president “extreme” after a debate last month.

Carper sounded more conciliatory Tuesday, saying he hopes to find common ground with Republicans on issues such as protecting the environment and improving the nation’s infrastructure.

“I think there’s a hunger to try to find common ground,” he said. “We’re going to look for ways to work together. When we differ, we’ll fight it out.”

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first black and first woman to be elected to Congress from Delaware, easily defeated Republican Scott Walker to retain her seat.

“This election was for the soul of our country,” Rochester said.

On the state level, Democratic Kathleen Jennings, who dominated fundraising and spending among all campaigns, defeated Republican Bernard Pepukayi in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Attorney General Matt Denn.

“My goal and my purpose in running has been to make Delaware a safer place for all of use to live, to make our criminal justice system fair and equal to everyone, and to provide treatment for those in crisis who are addicted,” Jennings said. “Those are my priorities.”

Democrats also took the other two statewide races, with Kathy McGuinness defeating Republican James Spadola to succeed retiring GOP state auditor Tom Wagner, and health care consultant Colleen Davis upsetting incumbent Republican Ken Simpler in the state treasurer’s race. With those losses, Republicans gave up the only statewide offices they held.

Democrats also dashed Republican hopes of taking control of the state Senate for the first time since 1973, upsetting GOP Minority Whip Greg Lavelle to improve their margin in the chamber from 11-10 to 12-9.

Democrats also picked up a seat in the state House, defeating GOP Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, who was first elected in 1994 and was the longest-serving member of the House. Democrats now have a 26-15 advantage in that chamber.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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