Bay to Bay News | by Joseph Edelen
Ahead of September’s state primary election, Delaware voters have just over a month to register for any potential change in their political affiliation.
Voters who wish to participate in this fall’s primary election will have until May 27 to file for a change of their political party with the Department of Elections.
Delaware’s primary election, which will be held on Sept. 13, will help determine candidates for office in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. The election allows for voters in the Democratic and Republican parties to cast a ballot for their respective candidates ahead of the state’s general election on Nov. 8.
In Delaware, primary elections are closed, meaning the qualification of voters is dependent on party affiliation, as state code requires an elector’s original permanent registration record to correlate with their party affiliation.
For a voter who wishes to change their party affiliation, the Department of Elections requires citizens to complete and submit a voter registration application. The Delaware election commissioner is required to provide the form, which must be signed by the registrant and returned to the department. After the application is received by the Department of Elections, the new form will be reviewed to determine if the change is approved.
Unregistered voters who plan to participate in the primary election will have until Aug. 20 to register to vote. For unregistered Delawareans living outside of the state and uniformed services members, the deadline to register is Aug. 29. These citizens can register by mail, by phone, online or in person with the Department of Elections or at the Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Health & Social Services, or the Department of Labor.
Races in the primary election are subject to change as candidates have until July 12 at noon to file for a statewide seat and all other offices. Candidates who wish to run for a seat within the House or the Senate are required to register through the Delaware election commissioner, while those running for seats such as county sheriff or county council may file with the Department of Elections office in the county they reside.
Candidates on the ballot
Currently, the primary election will see three contested races in the House and four for the Senate.
In state Representative District 13, incumbent Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, is running against community organizer DeShanna Neal for the Democratic nomination.
Rep. Madinah Anton-Wilson, D-Newark, is the current representative in District 26 and will seek re-election against social entrepreneur Kelly Williams Maresca. The Democratic nominee for District 26 will run against Republican Timothy Conrad in the general election.
In District 32, real estate agent Phil McGinnis is running against community advocate and military veteran Kerri Evelyn Harris for the Democratic nomination. The seat is currently held by Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover, who is one of 25 of the state’s 62 legislators to not yet file for an official notification of candidacy.
Ahead of the July 12 deadline, Democratic and Republican candidates can file for district office by completing a notification of candidacy form to their respective county’s party committee chair.
Current Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, has registered to run for the Senate seat in District 6, which will soon be vacated as Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, plans to retire at the end of his term. In the primary election, Jack Bucchioni and Russ Huxtable will bid for the Democratic nomination while Rep. Smyk is the only registered Republican candidate for the seat.
Incumbent Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, is seeking re-election and will run against James Welsh in the primary election. In District 12, only one Republican candidate, Bill Alexander, is registered ahead of the general election.
Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, will face opposition in District 16 as he approaches his 28th year as a state senator. Sen. Bonini will oppose Iraq War veteran, co-founder and president of the Women’s Defense Coalition of Delaware Kim Petters on the Republican ticket.
The final contested race in the Senate is in District 14, a seat currently held by Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna. In March, Sen. Ennis announced his plans to retire at the end of his term after a 40-year career in both the House and Senate. Currently, Michael Hill-Shaner, Kevin Musto and Kyra Hoffner are registered as Democratic candidates ahead of the primary election. The lone registered Republican candidate for the district is former mayor of Leipsic, Mark Pugh.
Other notable retirements for members of Delaware’s General Assembly ahead of election season include Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, and Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana.
At the end of the House chamber meeting on Jan. 27, Rep. Kowalko said it was time for him to pass the baton after 16 years as an elected official and 37 years as a machinist and union member, including 25 years working in the Delaware City Refinery.
In a statement released on Aug. 24, Rep. Bentz announced that he would not seek re-election for his seat in District 18. He said the decision came after careful consideration and consultation with his family, and ultimately decided to step away from elected office at the conclusion of his term. Rep. Bentz said his decision to announce this ahead of time was so that candidates had time to explore their options.
For more information about Delaware’s primary and general elections, or the upcoming school board elections on May 10, visit here.