The Sussex County legislative contingent held strong, with incumbents holding on to their seats in midterm elections.
In the hotly contested Senate District 6 race, incumbent Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, won a close match over Democratic opponent Dave Baker, 14,781-13,283.
“This was a tough race. My toughest, no doubt about it,” Lopez said after arriving to a victory celebration at his headquarters in Rehoboth.
Lopez said he believes voters supported him for his bipartisanship, and he will continue to work across the aisle for the next four years.
Working to bring more transportation money to Sussex County is a top priority moving forward, he said.
“Voters made a statement to focus on issues at home,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s win helped state Senate Republicans, but a loss by District 4 incumbent Republican Sen. Greg Lavelle to Democratic challenger Laura Sturgeon, who took 53 percent of the vote, increased the Democratic majority in the Senate to 12. Democrats also retained the Senate District 17 seat, with Trey Paradee’s commanding win over Republican Justin King, leaving Republicans with nine senators.
Meanwhile, in House races, Democrat and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf of Rehoboth easily retained his District 14 seat, beating Republican challenger James DeMartino 8,530-5,125.
Democrats also retained control of the state House of Representatives and even gained a seat with the ouster of minority whip and Republican incumbent Rep. Deborah Hudson of District 12. Democratic House seats total 26 to the Republicans’ 15.
With 11 new members of the House, Schwartzkopf said there will be a large learning curve when the new legislative session begin in January. On controversial issues such as last session’s assault weapon ban and legalizing marijuana, he said, he doesn’t know where the new members stand.
“I don’t know where we are now,” Schwartzkopf said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
In Representative District 20, Republican incumbent Steve Smyk defeated Democratic challenger John Bucchioni and Libertarian Party challenger Harry Smouse. Smyk received a little more than 56 percent of the vote, Bucchioni received roughly 43 percent and Smouse received just shy of 1 percent.
First elected in 2012, this will be Smyk’s fourth term in office representing the constituents of Lewes, Milton, Broadkill Beach, Harbeson, Cool Spring and Angola.
Joined by his fellow GOP legislators at the Sussex County Association of Realtors building in Georgetown, Smyk said he was glad to be re-elected, but had already starting thinking about the next day’s meetings.
“It’s an honor to continue to represent the people of this district,” he said.
Bucchioni won two of the 10 election districts comprising District 20, but Smyk said they were the ones located in downtown Lewes and downtown Milton. Smyk said these two districts have a lot of voters who have moved from other states.
“Apparently, I’m not making everybody happy, but I’m making the majority of the people happy,” he said.
Republicans retain incumbent seats
Incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Gray won in Representative District 38 with 65 percent of the vote, defeating Meghan Kelly of Dagsboro. In District 41, incumbent Rep. Richard Collins of Millsboro won easily, with nearly 61 percent of the vote, over challenger Bradley S. Conner of Bethany Beach.
Republicans also won two races for open seats, with Dave Wilson defeating Democrat Jim Purcell 10,816-5,783 for the Senate District 18 seat vacated by Republican Gary Simpson, who retired. Former District 35 Rep. Wilson left his seat to run for the Senate; Republican Jesse R. Vanderwende ran unopposed for Wilson’s seat.
In Representative District 36, left open by retiring Republican Harvey Kenton, Republican Bryan Shupe defeated Democrat Donald Alllan Jr., 5,244-2,848.
In both Sussex County Council races, Districts 4 and 5, Republicans won. District 4 Republican Doug Hudson defeated Democrat Paulette Rappa, 12,449-10,617. In District 5, Republican John Rieley beat Democrat Ellen Magee, 10,786-7,029.
Democrats sweep state races
In statewide races, Rehoboth’s Kathy McGuiness was among the big winners, easily outdistancing Republican James Spadola in the race for state auditor, tallying nearly 58 percent of the vote to Spadola’s 42 percent.
“This victory wouldn't have been possible without the support of thousands of Delaware voters who believed in my message of making the auditor's office relevant to all Delawareans,” McGuiness said in a press release following the election. “I will work tirelessly on your behalf to save taxpayer dollars and cut out waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Meanwhile, Rehoboth business owner and incumbent State Treasurer Ken Simpler lost his bid for re-election to Colleen Davis of Dagsboro, who tallied 52 percent to Simpler’s 46 percent. Green Party candidate David B. Chandler won almost 2 percent.
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper easily retained his seat, with 60 percent of the vote over challenger and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett of Dagsboro, who tallied 38 percent. Green Party candidate Demitri G. Theodoropoulos and Libertarian Nadine Frost each received about 1 percent.
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester was a big winner statewide, polling over 64 percent of the vote to Republican Scott Walker’s 36 percent. She took the most votes of any candidate in the state with 227,333. In the race for attorney general, Democrat Kathy Jennings won easily, polling 61 percent to Bernard Pepukayi’s 39 percent. Jennings pulled in the second-highest number of votes with 218,332.