Posted: March 12, 2012
TICKET SPLITTERS, NO MORE
By Celia Cohen
Delaware voters used to be proud ticket splitters, hopscotching their way down the ballot, in a grand display of voting for the person and not the party.
It was practically whimsical. They voted the same year for Jimmy Carter as the Democratic president and Pete du Pont as the Republican governor, the Georgia peanut farmer paired incongruously with Chateau Country's finest in 1976.
They went with Ronald Reagan as the Republican president, Joe Biden as the Democratic senator, Mike Castle as the Republican governor and Tom Carper as the Democratic congressman in 1984, and then eight years later in 1992, they merrily let Castle and Carper switch jobs.
It was beyond bipartisan. It was nearly bipolar.
Never mind. Delawareans are ticket splitters, no more.
As the century turned, the state went the way of the rest of the country with the voters choosing sides and largely sticking with them.
It was done in a manner that reflects Delaware's peculiar heritage as the only state located east of the Mason-Dixon line with upstate more northern in its outlook and downstate more southern.
The state split into its own descriptive cliche, part of it a sea of blue and part of it a brick of red.
The progression is apparent, as depicted in the chart at the end. A look at the quadrennial results from the elections for the state House of Representatives, president and governor show the upstate reaches increasingly swamped by Democratic blue and the downstate regions solidifying into Republican red.
The exception is the election for governor. What has not changed in 40 years is the voters have not elected anyone as governor who has not previously run and won statewide.
With the Republican statewide officials dwindling down to only Tom Wagner, the state auditor, the electorate has become wedded to Democratic governors, although the downstate voters did desert Ruth Ann Minner, a downstater herself, in 2004 in favor of Bill Lee, the Republican ex-judge, after Minner came out for gay rights and the smoking ban.
The chart, through no fault of its own, is mildly misleading by geography, because the General Assembly does not renumber the districts that have been shifted southward by redistricting.
Otherwise, the chart would pick up the persistent anomaly of a lonely, basically blue streak cutting through the Sussex County voting returns in the 14th Representative District, which was relocated in 2002 to Rehoboth Beach.
The chart does show the 41st Representative District, centered in Millsboro, still in the throes of vacillation between the old days of the conservative Democrats and the new times of the conservative Republicans. No wonder it is the home base for John Atkins, the representative elected as both a Republican and a Democrat.
Just a little humor from the political gods.
*District shifted from Wilmington to Bear in 2002
**District shifted from Claymont to Middletown in 2002
***District shifted from Brandywine Hundred to New Castle County/Kent County in 2012
****District shifted from Newark to Rehoboth Beach in 2002
*****District shifted from Hockessin to Milton in 2012
Source: state election returns