Races to Watch: State House 21st District
Delaware Public Media wraps up its Races to Watch series with a State House race that’s a rematch of 2018
Delaware Public Media's Nick Ciolino has more on Republican Mike Ramone’s effort to repeat his narrow win over Democrat Stephanie Barry.
Delaware’s 21st House District in Northern New Castle County includes parts of Pike Creek and Pike Creek Valley.
Michael Ramone is seeking a 7th term. After defeating Democrat Patricia Creedon in 2008, he ran unopposed up until 2014 when he handily defeated Green Party candidate David McCorquodale and did the same again in 2016—each time by a more than 60-point margin.
But when Democrat Stephanie Barry challenged him in 2018, Ramone won by just 409 votes in a race with more than 9,800 voters.
Barry says she’s encouraged by that result, because she had only started campaigning four months leading up to the election.
“This year, it made me realize that there was a tremendous amount of support," said Barry. "I just needed to start earlier; talk to more people. And that’s what we did.”
Since the last election, Barry has also been active in combating a proposed development at Three Little Bakers Golf Course. An out-of-state developer has been battling deed restrictions on the property and is still in litigation.
“We managed to get over 300 people attending a County Council meeting to stand up and talk about why the deed restrictions needed to be enforced," said Barry. "It was significant reasons—environmental impact, as well as impact on local infrastructure, water issues, school, you know all of that”
Ramone chairs the House Small Business Caucus. And he has a history of working with Democrats. He cites former House Speaker Bob Gillian as a mentor, and worked with former State Rep. Melanie George Smith on the Joint Finance Committee and later with retiring State Rep. Quinn Johnson on budget smoothing legislation.
The budget smoothing effort ultimately didn’t pass, but acted as the framework for an executive order from Gov. Carney, which, as Ramone points out, later came in handy with the deficit caused by COVID-19.
“We could balance our budget, because of the budget smoothing fund, without having to lower people’s pay, or cut jobs, or downsize the government or raise taxes,” said Ramone.
At the start of the COVID outbreak, Ramone says he put together daily reports and held weekly zoom meetings for his constituents. And he says he’s proud the 21st has no COVID deaths.
He was also vocal early on in offering a mission statement for COVID response to Carney emphasizing management of at-risk communities. The plan was ultimately not adopted.
Ramone is also critical of the state’s decision to allow larger box stores to remain open while smaller businesses were forced to shut down.
“You can’t pick winners and losers, because the spread moves to those areas and that’s what we saw unfortunately," said Ramone. "We did good. We did better than many, but I think we could’ve done better, and I think we really failed on our long term care facilities. We didn’t get them the supplies, the attention and the support they needed when some of us were trying to do that earlier.”
Barry praises Delaware’s response to COVID, applauding the state’s efforts to make testing widely available and Carney’s approach to reopening the economy.
“Trying to balance the needs of the economy as well as the safety of everyone," said Barry. "I certainly know that school reopening is at the top of everyone’s mind right now and I’m confident they will come to good resolutions to balance the two.”
Barry’s top issue is health care. She says if she is elected she will work to bring down the state’s cost of care, which is among the most expensive per person in the nation. She also supports a bill in the General Assembly to expand mental health services in the schools. That has yet to receive a vote.
“When I talk to people in the district, health care cost is really number one, and think that is something that needs to be brought to light in the General Assembly,” Barry said.
Barry also supports implementing a permanent vote by mail option.
And she wants to raise the minimum wage, which Ramone has consistently voted against, and he even sponsored 2018 legislation allowing employers to pay minors and adults in their first 90 days of work 50 cents less an hour less than the minimum wage.
“The reason I am running is I do not believe that his voting record represents the needs and the values of the district," said Barry. "So I am giving the voters in the district the opportunity to elect somebody who better represents those values.”
Ramone, meanwhile, says he doesn’t see the legislature addressing any issues that aren’t related to the pandemic for some time if Delaware remains in a state of emergency.
“If that continues to be extended, we don’t go in session. I’m not really sure what it looks like," said Ramone. "I don’t know that anybody is overly optimistic about getting a lot of good healthy bills passed this year, just like we weren’t able to get a lot of good healthy bills passed last year.”
He adds he’s critical of both parties and concerned the current political climate nationally is adding to the problem.
“I would’ve like to have seen someone show the leadership and the guidance and just the stamina to not roll in the mud with people, and unfortunately politics has digressed to a point where you get a lot more votes out of hatred than you do out of love,” said Ramone.
Democrats continue to hold a registration edge in the district - with just over 31 more registered voters than Republicans, but the district has a little more than 5,000 registered voters not affiliated with either of the two major parties. Those are voters Ramone needs to turn out for him if he wants to hang on to the seat.