Posted: March 7, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are six months of campaigning left until Primary Day on Tuesday, Sept. 9, and the candidates are lining up. It is getting to the point of now or never.

As Delaware increasingly becomes a one-party state, dominated by the Democrats, the primaries have more and more to say about who gets into office. Some primaries matter more than others, and here is an early look at which ones could.

THE MAIN EVENT. The Democrats went from being highly reluctant to see a primary challenge to Chip Flowers, the first-term treasurer who is the only African-American ever elected statewide, to highly motivated. This can happen to someone who has had trouble in office and found himself at odds with the governor, attorney general and legislative leadership, all from his own party.

Enter Sean Barney. Not only was he a gubernatorial aide to Jack Markell and a senatorial aide to Tom Carper, but he might be best known for enlisting with the Marines after Sept. 11 and taking a bullet in the neck in Iraq.

Ken Simpler Jr., the Republican candidate, has to watch and wait. He will have a better chance at being the first new Republican elected statewide in 20 years if Flowers is his Democratic opponent.

Furthermore, Simpler has to watch and wait to find out whether he has a primary himself. Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator who narrowly lost out to Flowers for treasurer in 2010, has not ruled out running again.

NOT ALL PRIMARIES ARE NECESSARILY BAD. The political parties are generally primary-aversive, because of the splits they create, but sometimes a primary comes along that can be helpful to a candidate. This could be the case in the Democratic primary for auditor.

The last Republican left in statewide office is Tom Wagner, the auditor for the past 25 years. Neither a strong vote-getter nor fund-raiser, Wagner is expected to find himself in a tough race with Brenda Mayrack, a lawyer who used to be the Democrats' executive director.

Before that, however, Mayrack finds herself in essentially a nuisance primary with Ken Matlusky, who lost a primary for auditor in 2010. Rather than hurt Mayrack's chances, the primary could be turned into a tune-up for her campaign against Wagner.

LIVE BY THE PRIMARY, DIE BY THE PRIMARY. Bryan Townsend got to be a state senator by taking out Tony DeLuca, then the Senate's Democratic president pro tem, in a celebrated primary in 2012. Now there are rumblings Townsend could have a primary this time around.

It would come from Dave Tackett, a Democrat on the New Castle County Council for nearly 10 years. No matter what happens, the seat is virtually certain to stay Democratic. Not only are more than half the voters registered Democrats, but the Republicans have yet to field a candidate.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN. Dennis Williams, the Democratic state representative who is not to be confused with the mayor of the same name, always seems to rank as one of the most endangered legislators in Dover but somehow scrambles back in.

In the last election, Williams escaped from a Democratic primary against Sean Matthews by polling 53 percent of the vote and then pulled out a race against Bob Rhodunda, the Republican candidate, by 52 percent.

Matthews and Rhodunda are both running again. Not even a crystal ball, Ouija board and the entrails of an owl combined could predict what will happen here.