Bay to Bay News | by Joseph Edelen
With the additions to Delaware’s General Assembly now clear, the legislature will see little change in the balance of Democratic power when it begins its next session in January 2023.
As many lawmakers left to seek new opportunities or retirement, and some falling short in their primary or general elections, there have been several implications on the makeup of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Following the general election Tuesday, the House gained six new faces, while the Senate will have three.
Despite that turnaround, the party of control will remain the same in both chambers. In the House, Democrats will outnumber Republicans 25 to 16. In the Senate, Democrats were able to pick up a seat with the election of Russ Huxtable in the 6th District, expanding their majority to a 15-to-six margin.
The 6th District has been represented by a Republican since at least 1968, according to the Department of Elections. Sen. Ernie Lopez has represented the district since 2012, though he opted against a bid for reelection in 2022.
Mr. Huxtable’s nearly four-point victory over Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, adds another Democrat to the Senate’s supermajority, required for overriding vetoes and passing tax increases.
As Tuesday’s results trickled in at the Delaware Democrats’ watch party, Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman of Wilmington noted that the caucus was excited for potential victories from Mr. Huxtable and 14th District Democrat Kyra Hoffner but especially to elect a “Sussex County Democrat.” Once Mr. Huxtable is sworn in in January, he will be the only Democratic state senator in the county.
Though the numbers did not change in the House, the chamber will appear much different in the upcoming 152nd General Assembly.
DeShanna Neal’s Sept. 13 primary win over House Majority Whip Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, will not only lead to a change in House leadership, but it will offer yet another progressive voice among representatives. Ms. Neal, like several of those recently elected, was supported by the grassroots Working Families Party, which has helped elect progressive candidates to the assembly in recent years.
Four seats in the House, including Ms. Neal’s, will continue to be represented by Democrats despite changes in the individuals holding the seats.
With the retirement of Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, and Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, two progressive political newcomers will replace them: Cyndie Romer and Sophie Phillips, respectively.
In Kent County, Kerri Evelyn Harris will fill the position of departing Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover, who has served the 32nd District since 2012. With Ms. Harris’ 16-point margin of victory over Republican Cheryl Precourt, residents of the capital city and its surrounding area will continue to be represented by a Democrat in Legislative Hall.
Aside from the seats that remained with the Democrats, two additional House districts flipped, effectively canceling each other out.
In the 4th District, Republican Jeff Hilovsky defeated Democrat Keegan Worley and Independent Amy Fresh, switching the spot previously held by Rep. Bud Freel of Wilmington. The 4th was relocated to Sussex County following redistricting, resulting in favorable voter registration totals for Republicans there compared to the densely populated Democratic stronghold of New Castle County.
Though Republicans were able to pick up the 4th District seat in the House, a gain for the party was nullified with the result of the 20th District race in the Milton area.
Democrat Stell Parker Selby narrowly defeated Republican Dallas Wingate by 370 votes in the campaign to replace Rep. Smyk, who lost to Mr. Huxtable in the 6th Senate District. While voter registration totals back Democrats by 681 individuals, the 6th has been represented by Republicans since 2006.
Another fresh face in the General Assembly will be Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson, who will take over the position of longtime 16th District Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, following a primary win.
The Department of Elections’ Board of Canvass will meet in Superior Court to ratify general election results Thursday morning at 10.
Once confirmed, the party caucuses of the House and Senate will meet in the coming week to vote on leadership for the 152nd General Assembly.