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Witzke challenges Coons on Supreme Court nomination, addresses QAnon claims

Portraits of a balding man in a dark blue suit on the left, a woman with long, blonde hair and a white shirt on the right
The office of Sen. Chris Coons / Lauren Witzke for U.S. Senate
Incumbent Sen. Chris Coons and Republican challenger Lauren Witzke

Sen. Chris Coons faced off against Republican challenger Lauren Witzke at the first candidate forum of the general election season.


The forum hosted by the Jewish Federation of Delaware and the Hadassah Chapter Wilmington is traditionally the first following the Delaware primary.


And it was Witzke’s first chance to directly attack Coons’ tenure as U.S. senator while making her case for Delawareans' votes.


The nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was among the issues tackled. Witzke says Coons is not doing his constitutional duty by attempting to prevent a confirmation vote.


“It is Senator Coons’ job to confirm the Supreme Court Justice," said Witzke. "What are we gonna have, another Brett Kavanaugh circus like we had 2 years ago. This is our constitutional duty.”


Coons responded by mentioning that Ginsburg herself recognized the fragility of the Supreme Court by asking that a vote wait until after the election.


“And she knows that on the ballot this fall is the Affordable Care Act and the future of healthcare in this country,” said Coons.


The Supreme Court hears arguments on the future of the Affordable Care Act one week after the election.


Witzke previously appeared to show support for the baseless, far right wing conspiracy theory QAnon. She was confronted with her connection to it during the forum.


“From what I understand it’s absolutely harmless and it’s just people who want sex traffikers and pedophiles held accountable,” said Witzke.


Coons refutes Witzke's statement, citing an FBI memo that identifies QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat.


“It’s an extreme theory that is without basis in fact or reality and is exactly the sort of  thing that folks that have previously supported it or suggested it’s harmless like my opponent, should research and denounce and make clear that they don’t support,” said Coons.


There have been multiple incidents involving QAnon theorists, including kidnappings, death threats and terrorism charges.


Witzke has been seen wearing a QAnon shirt in the past. She claims it was a gift from her friend, who was heavily into the conspiracy theory and died during the pandemic because of an opioid overdose.


Every other statewide candidate at the forum denounced the conspiracy theory, saying Delawareans should focus on the real issues at hand, like the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change.


Both candidates are scheduled to meet in another debate hosted by Delaware Public Media and the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication October 13th.

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.
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