Posted: Nov. 4, 2014
AN ELECTION OF STEPCHILDREN
By Celia Cohen
Many a person has lost an office on Election Day, but this year an office lost a person.
That would be lieutenant governor. The office is vanishing into a political Never Never Land, what with Matt Denn ditching it two years early by getting himself elected the Democratic attorney general and no way under the state constitution to replace him until the next election in 2016.
It makes Denn the only one-and-a-half term lieutenant governor in state history, and it makes this election the only one Delaware went into with nine statewide offices and came out of with eight.
In a way, the office of lieutenant governor deserved to be dragged into the 2014 mid-term election.
The office is a political stepchild, the state constitution all but indifferent to its presence or its absence, and the election itself made stepchildren, mostly of the Democrats.
The Democrats have been the darlings of the statewide electorate, but not this time. Not only did the Democrats lose the office of lieutenant governor entirely, they lost two more offices the old-fashioned way at the polls.
The voters elected Ken "Let's Make It" Simpler, the Republican candidate for state treasurer, to make him the first new Republican statewide officeholder in 20 years, and they kept Tom Wagner as the Republican state auditor.
Put it in perspective. Two statewide losses are as many as the Democrats lost in the last three elections combined.
The electoral equation for 9 statewide offices going in: 8 Democrat + 1 Republican. The electoral equation coming out: 6 Democrat + 2 Republican + 1 in foreclosure.
Just because the Democrats were losers does not mean the Republicans were winners.
Look at what the Republicans did. They took treasurer and auditor. The officeholders are supposed to be able to count, but the offices? They hardly count at all.
It was the Democrats who won the offices that matter, as Chris Coons was re-elected senator, John Carney was re-elected congressman, and Denn moved to attorney general.
Even with the Democrats winning the two federal offices, all is not well for the all-Democratic congressional delegation, because the voters around the country turned control of the Senate over to the Republicans and consigned Coons and Tom Carper, the state's senators, to the minority, where Carney already was in the House of Representatives.
It will cause Carper to lose his gavel as the chair of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, and Coons a lesser gavel as the subcommittee chair of African Affairs on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Nothing says "stepchild" in the Congress like "minority."
There goes one of Coons' favorite punch lines, fond as he is of describing the difference between the commute he and Carper take to Washington and the one for Carney -- "We go to the Senate every day, and he goes to the House, and that is just a much, much, much tougher train ride."
This is the first time in more than 40 years the entire congressional contingent will be in the minority, although back then in the early 1970s it was an all-Republican delegation with Caleb Boggs and Bill Roth in the Senate and Pete du Pont in the House.
What goes around comes around. At least Delaware will still have the vice president.
In the General Assembly, the Democrats clung to the majority in both the state Senate and the state House of Representatives, but the Republicans did make inroads by electing one new state senator and two new state representatives.
The new state Senate will have 12 Democrats and 9 Republicans, and the new state House will have 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
The Republican gain in the state Senate was significant, because it denies Governor Jack Markell and his fellow Democrats the super-majority needed to enact tax bills.
All of this happened with an abysmal statewide turnout of about 36 percent -- the lowest participation by the voters since Delaware set up a registration system in 1955.
It was like the entire election was a stepchild nobody wanted.