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Buckson defeats Bonini in 16th Senate District Republican primary

Eric Buckson and his family celebrate his victory on Tuesday night.
Paul Kiefer
Delaware Public Media
Eric Buckson celebrates his birthday and his primary victory on Tuesday night at his home in Camden.

Longtime state Senator and two-time gubernatorial candidate Colin Bonini won’t return to the legislature in January.

Bonini lost a 3-person Republican primary in the 16th Senate District Tuesday, falling in the face of a wave of advertising from Eric Buckson, a Kent County Levy Court Commissioner and a familiar face in the 16th district. Bonini also faced a challenge from gun rights activist Kim Petters - a first-time candidate who built a network of supporters while rallying opposition to state-level gun control measures.

Buckson ended the night with 51 percent of vote. Petters followed with 27 percent, while Bonini managed just 21 percent. Bonini conceded the race before midnight.

Both Buckson and Petters cast the race as a referendum on whether Bonini had become too comfortable as one of the legislature’s longest-serving lawmakers; Bonini argued his tenure was an asset, pointing to his role as a conservative fiscal watchdog.

Buckson says balancing development with preservation of agricultural land and Delaware’s bayshore is a priority he developed while on the Levy Court’s land use committee - and one he plans to take to Leg Hall.

“I’m very familiar with the farmer, the agricultural community, and the pressures that they face from growth," he said. "I get it - we need to be able to manage both. But we need to start from the position of what we’re going to do for the farmer, for the agricultural industry, so they can survive.”

Buckson congratulated Bonini on his 27 years in office but says he has no apprehensions about filling his predecessor’s shoes in the Senate.

“I don’t blink," he said. "I walk right in there and I’m ready to go. I believe in myself; I believe in the fabric I’m made of that suits that district. And I believe that when I get in there, we’re not going to miss a step - in fact, we’re going to make gains.”

Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 16th Senate District, Buckson is unopposed in November’s general election.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.