Posted: Nov. 6, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The election was not canceled. It just looks that way.

All of the statewide officeholders? Re-elected.

Democratic majority in the General Assembly? Returned.

So predictable, just as it was for the voters here to resoundingly endorse four more years for their famous favorite son -- and his running mate, too -- on the Democratic presidential ticket.

Delaware was at its microcosmic best on Election Day, a miniature mirror of the mood of the country. This was not hope and change. This was hold on and cross your fingers.

As Larry Sabato, the prognosticating political scientist at the University of Virginia, forecasted on Friday, "It is possible that we will have spent $6 billion or $7 billion on the 2012 campaign in order to produce a status quo government."

This was an exhaustion election, not an anger election, not a throw-the-bums-out election.

People were weary and still a little frightened from the financial battering they have taken, and Hurricane Sandy may have reminded them that sometimes government is all they have. They sense a fragile, if unsteady, economic recovery, and they voted not to rock the boat.

It did not help in Delaware that the Republicans hardly could put up a fight, not with the party still curdled by what the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell did to it two years ago.

Not to mention the Democrats had a huge registration edge, outnumbering the Republicans statewide by nearly 119,000 voters, and they got their voters out.

What it amounted to was a blowout day for the Democrats. They were always expected to do well, but they turned themselves into a juggernaut.

The election rolled through here with more sound than fury, leaving the state much like it was before. The differences were in the details.

Presidential race. Delaware is in the midst of a new streak in presidential elections. It ended one as a classic swing state, voting for the winner every time from 1952 to 1996, and started a new one in 2000 as a reliably Democratic blue state, voting for Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama.

Excluding Sussex, of course. The southernmost of the three counties is the conservative-most, and its presidential vote since 2000 is colored Republican red. It wanted George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Statewide races. The three Democrats topping the ballot swept to re-election. Tom Carper routed Kevin Wade for senator, John Carney waltzed by Tom Kovach for congressman, and Jack Markell, well, it is hard to remember if the Republicans ran anyone for governor.

The loudest candidate fared the poorest. That would be Alex Pires, the Independent Party candidate running for senator. He huffed and he puffed, but he could not take down Carper, who set a record here by winning his 13th statewide race. Pires got 4 percent of the vote.

Negative campaigning does work, but as Carper has proved time and again, not against him.

Matt Denn coasted in his race to re-election as the Democratic lieutenant governor against Sher Valenzuela, a businesswoman whose flash of national attention as a speaker at the Republican convention simply did not translate at home.

Denn did what he had to do to position himself for a run as governor in 2016, although he could have company for the Democratic nomination, notably from Chip Flowers, the state treasurer, and Tom Gordon, politically redeemed as the incoming New Castle County executive.

The Democratic surge also re-elected Karen Weldin Stewart as insurance commissioner over Ben Mobley, a Republican who was a newcomer to politics.

Legislative races. The Republicans won tandem victories in the two fiercest Senate races, one upstate and one downstate, as Greg Lavelle, the House's Republican minority leader, took out Mike Katz, a first-term Democrat, in a district sprawling across northern New Castle County, and Ernie Lopez outpolled Andy Staton in Sussex County for a new seat created by redistricting.

It was the brightest spots for the Republicans this Election Day.

Even so, it was tempered with the loss of Dori Connor, a Republican senator who finally succumbed to the Democratic registration rising steadily against her in a district stretching from New Castle to below-the-canal. Connor held the seat for 15 years, following the death of her husband, who had it for 17 years. It goes to Nicole Poore, a Democrat making her first race.

The races for the House included one big upset, as Lincoln Willis, a Republican representative regarded as future leadership material, lost his Kent County seat after one term to Trey Paradee, a Democrat who nearly won it in 2008 but sat out the 2010 election.

The 2012 legislative races will also be remembered for the candidates who knocked themselves out of the running.

Ron Poliquin, a Republican lawyer campaigning for a House seat in Kent County, withdrew after he was suspended from the bar for professional misconduct. Brad Bennett, a Democratic representative from Dover, got off the ballot after a second drunken driving arrest, only to be replaced by his wife Andria, a legislative aide who won.

In the worst case of all, Eric Bodenweiser was supposed to be a shoo-in as a Republican candidate for senator in Sussex County, only to abort his campaign as he was about to be indicted for child sex crimes.

It is never good to have a campaign poster replaced by a "wanted" poster.