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Cape Region Republicans challenged in midterms

Downstate voters unable to counter New Castle bloc
November 9, 2018

Democratic challengers put up a fight Nov. 6, giving incumbent Republicans in the Cape Region a run for their money.

Both Republican incumbents Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, won their seats, but Election Night was not without some close returns within their districts.

Lopez said he is grateful for the 1,500 vote margin of victory in a year when Republicans across the state took some serious hits.

“This was a close race against a tough opponent who I respect and care about. Being a Republican senator who represents a district with a Democratic voter registration edge, I knew over a year ago that I was going to be targeted by angry progressives and the Sussex County Democratic Party,” Lopez said following the election. “We never changed our plan of work, and stayed focused and positive. The 14,781 votes we received on Tuesday were the most any candidate for state Senate received in Delaware, and I'm proud of that.”

He said he will continue to hold the line for responsible governance and work toward bipartisanship.

“I think people respected the fact that we have a six-year record of tremendous bipartisanship success here for the people of the sixth district,” Lopez said. “We still have some challenges and we're going to address them, but for me it's always been about working together and solving problems on behalf of constituents.”

Early results posted Election Night gave Lopez's Democratic challenger Dave Baker a brief lead in the beach resort areas, and downtown Milton and Lewes before Lopez finally prevailed in the outlying Rehoboth, Lewes and Milton areas.

In District 20, Smyk took more than 56 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger John Bucchioni's 43 percent and less than 1 percent for Libertarian Harry Smouse.

Of the 10 voting areas within District 20, Bucchioni won the downtown Milton area by 39 votes and downtown Lewes by 96 votes. In the remaining eight voting areas, Smyk prevailed by upwards of 500 votes in some areas.

In the two areas he lost, Smyk said, many residents have moved there from elsewhere, and he acknowledged he is not making everybody happy. He said he encourages constituents to attend his monthly coffee meetings. “It gives my constituents an opportunity for their voices to be heard,” he said.

His win by about 2,000 votes is still good, Smyk said. “The politicians tell me it's a great win,” he said.

In 2016, Smyk took about 62 percent of the vote over Democrat Barbara Vaughan's 37 percent and Independent Party of Delaware candidate Don Ayotte's 1 percent.

That same year, Schwartzkopf beat James DeMartino with 64 percent of the vote, slightly more than this year's nearly 63 percent. Schwarztkopf had no challenger in 2014.

In 2014, Lopez won handily against Democrat Claire Snyder-Hall with 63 percent of the vote.

New Castle voters determine state races

Sussex County voters chose Republicans in all state and federal races, but their votes did little to offset the strength of Democratic voters in New Castle.

Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett won 50,390 over Sen. Tom Carper's 40,672 Sussex County votes for U.S. senator. The two were closer in Kent County with 31,281 going to Carper and 27,208 to Arlett, but winning more than 145,000 votes in New Castle pushed Carper to a commanding win. Arlett recorded fewer than 60,000 votes in New Castle.

Sussex County votes were closer in the congressional race between incumbent Democrat Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Republican Scott Walker, but he won Sussex County, 44,615-44,048.

Blunt Rochester won Kent County 33,161-24,555, and New Castle County bolstered her victory with more than 150,000 votes to about 56,000 for Walker.

The story was the same in the races for attorney general and auditor of accounts. After losing Sussex County 43,120-47,312 to Republican Bernard Pepukayi, Democrat Kathy Jennings won Kent County by about 4,000 votes and pulled away to win the attorney general's race with 143,426 New Castle votes over Pepukayi's 63,363.

Rehoboth Beach Commissioner and Democratic candidate for state auditor Kathy McGuiness did not win her home county, losing to Republican James Spadola by nearly 9,000 votes. In Kent County, McGuiness prevailed 30,382-28,302, but New Castle voters solidified the win 134,470-71,747.

In the biggest upset of the night, New Castle voters determined Delaware's new state treasurer by voting for Dagsboro Democrat and newcomer Colleen Davis over incumbent Republican State Treasurer and Rehoboth Beach businessman Ken Simpler. Despite winning Sussex County by more than 20,000 votes and Kent County nearly 4,000 more, Simpler could not get enough New Castle votes to win re-election. Davis won New Castle 125,806-77,409, giving her the state treasurer seat.

Reporter Chris Flood contributed to this article