Delaware: Wither a Bellwether

For 12 consecutive elections from 1952 through 1996, Delaware voted for the winning presidential candidate, earning it coveted "bellwether" status. Sorry Delaware, it's over. The state ...
by | March 17, 2008

For 12 consecutive elections from 1952 through 1996, Delaware voted for the winning presidential candidate, earning it coveted "bellwether" status. Sorry Delaware, it's over.

The state has trended toward the Democrats at both the state and federal level over the past decade. This year's gubernatorial race reflects how far the state Republican Party has fallen.

Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is term-limited. Minner isn't especially popular and the state faces a budget shortfall, so the environment seems right for a Republican candidate to have a chance.

But Republicans can't find a candidate. First, wealthy CEO Alan Levin turned the party down. Last week, Bill Lee, a former judge who took 46% of the vote against Minner in 2004, said no.

The result is that the party is left with a couple of also-rans, without much time to find someone credible against the well-funded Democrats. Increasingly, the Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. John Carney and State Treasurer Jack Markell looks like it will determine the next governor.

As the Wilmington News Journal reported, Lee, in bowing out, declared that his party "doesn't exist":   

After Levin's announcement in January, House Majority Leader Richard Cathcart, R-Middletown, said the party was "in disarray."

To some, even that assessment is too optimistic.

"A very high party official today, whom I will not identify further, said there simply isn't any party anymore," Lee said. "It doesn't exist. That's sad and unnecessary, but particularly if they're going to try and find a candidate. They don't want to get in the business of raising money for candidates, but if they're going to have a candidate for governor, they have to change that approach."

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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