Posted: May 19, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Bryan Townsend just picked up an endorsement for his congressional campaign from the College Democrats at the University of Delaware, and it would probably be silly to think it was an accident.

The University of Delaware is in Newark. So is Townsend's political headquarters. His entire campaign is built on a Newark strategy.

Maybe not since the Alamo has anyone so conspicuously chosen a place to make a stand.

It is a strategy that sets Townsend apart from the other two candidates who are making it a competitive, three-way race in the Democratic primary for Delaware's lone congressional seat.

Not that Townsend really had much choice.

Lisa Blunt Rochester has EMILY's List, which backs Democratic women who are pro-choice, as well as the tantalizing prospect to make history as the first ever member of Delaware's federal delegation not to be male and white.

Sean Barney got into the race knowing VoteVets had his back with its nationwide commitment to candidates with military experience. Barney took a bullet in the neck as a Marine in Iraq.

As for Townsend, he has a couple of terms as a junior state senator from a Newark-area district, so what could he do? He turned necessity into the mother of a campaign strategy.

Townsend made himself into the Willie Sutton of politics. If banks are where the money is, Newark is where his votes are.

This is not just a point-and-pray strategy. Newark was the heart of the winning campaign put together by Jack Markell, who grew up in Newark as the son of a professor, in the Democratic primary that propelled him to governor in 2008.

It helps that Newark is not exactly in the middle of nowhere, with 40 percent of the voters living not more than a 15-minute drive away, as calculated by Brian Boyle, the campaign manager.

Townsend knows Newark. He went to Glasgow High School and the University of Delaware (even if he did leave home to get a law degree from Yale), his mother grew up in Brookside, his father was with the Newark police, and his grandfather worked at Chrysler.

There is nothing subtle about what Townsend's strategy is. He once sent out a blast e-mail to his supporters with the subject line reading, "From Newark to Congress."

To get there as the replacement for John Carney, the Democratic congressman who is running for governor, the hard part is expected to be winning the Democratic primary on Sept 13.

Whether it is Barney, Rochester or Townsend who becomes the nominee, the voters here have a decided preference for electing Democrats to statewide office. Nor does it look like the Republicans will be putting up much of a fight. They are expected to go with Hans Reigle, a little-known candidate who was once the small-town mayor of Wyoming.

It all explains why Townsend was at the University of Delaware on Thursday at noon, the notes of the alma mater chiming from the carillon, to be officially endorsed by the College Democrats.

"For Bryan, the UD is home, and we're excited to welcome him back with our wholehearted endorsement," said Jaelyn Brown, the president of the College Democrats.

In another telltale sign of Townsend's Newark strategy, he has assiduously collected endorsements from his fellow Democratic legislators from the Newark area -- Karen Peterson and Dave Sokola from the state Senate and Paul Baumbach, David Bentz, Earl Jaques and Ed Osienski from the state House of Representatives.

Polly Sierer, the mayor of Newark, is also with Townsend.

"I'm so proud of Bryan, because he is part of the community working together," Sierer said when she spoke last month at the official opening of Townsend's headquarters.

For Townsend, the idea is he can go home again and again and again and again. Because home is where his votes are.