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Longest serving lawmaker bids farewell to the State Senate

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers convened last night for an unusually short final day of session, holding brief virtual sessions to complete the 150th General Assembly.


The House met for just 25 minutes to gavel into special session and the Senate met a bit longer to mark the end of a historic legislative career.


The longest serving member of Delaware’s General Assembly ever, State Sen. Harris McDowell, bid farewell to the other members of the Senate as they gaveled into their special session at midnight.


McDowell served in the Senate for 44 years, representing Claymont and Bellefonte in New Castle County. The Democrat announced his retirement a year ago to the surprise of many of his colleagues.


State Sen. Majority Leader Nicole Poore talked about McDowell’s commitment to his constituents.


“The fact that you were instrumental in the creation of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families just is unbelievable," said Poore. "Because you didn’t let a child be abandoned, abused or neglected because you knew we needed to have a focus in this area."


McDowell’s contributions also include spearheading creation the SEED scholarships at Delaware State and Delaware Tech and Delaware's Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Sustainable Energy Utility.


Gov. John Carney stopped by the Senate’s final virtual session to offer his thoughts on McDowell’s long legislative record.


“When people write the history of the Senate, you know, they talk about so and so was the father of this program. I don’t know which of the half dozen or more programs Harris would pick to become the father of,” said Carney.

McDowell left his Senate colleagues with some simple advice.

"Go where your heart leads you and then be ready to fight," said McDowell.  "Stick with it and you’ll do great things."



McDowell was the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. The other co-chair, State Rep. Quinn Johnson, announced this week he won’t be seeking re-election this year - meaning JFC will have new leadership next session.


The State Senate also recognized the retirement of the Secretary of the Senate, Joy Bower.


Both chambers ended early last night, wrapping up by 12:30 p.m. after gavelling into special session at midnight. The last day of the session normally sees a scramble to pass bills that lasts into the early morning.

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the legislature to move online and focus largely on the budget bills and a limited amount of legislation considered essential. That work was completed before yesterday’s final day.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.



Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.