Delaware Public Media

Democrats seek to turn Sussex County blue in 2020

Sep 19, 2019

Democrats in the First State hope to attract more Sussex County votes in 2020. Democrats are looking to build on the gains they made in last year’s midterm elections.

They picked up a seat in the Senate and another in the House that extends their supermajority. Democrats also captured all statewide offices by winning State Auditor and Treasurer.

Members of the state Democratic Party recently gathered in Sussex County to strategize for the 2020 election. There’s about 140,000 more registered Democrats statewide, but Sussex County has about 5,000 more registered Republicans.

Gov. John Carney says he carried Sussex County when he first ran for Lt. Governor in 2000. But election results from his 2016 run for governor shows he lost the county to Republican Colin Bonini by about 8,000 votes.

“That’s a big change," he said. "But I am optimistic today that we can turn the tide and make, as our Lt. governor said, make Sussex County blue again.”

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, is the lone elected Democratic state or county lawmaker in Sussex County. He said registered Democrats outnumber Republicans statewide by 140,000. But Republicans control Sussex County by 5,000 votes.

Schwartzkopf said he keeps winning reelection because his district is diverse and he’s responsive to constituents.

“They all come here to retire," he said. "They’re very, very educated, they’re up-to-date on the issues and they don’t hesitate to call me and I talk to them and tell them where I stand. And I think that’s what we have to remember as Democrats when we run for office.”

All members of the House are up for re-election. In the Senate, Brian Pettyjohn and Gerald Hocker are among the Sussex County Republicans with seats to defend.

Democrats are targeting Senate Republicans in New Castle County, Cathy Cloutier and Anthony Delcollo as well as those downstate. 

Delaware GOP Party Chair Jane Brady said her incumbents are in good shape. She said one of her goals is to prevent Democrats from getting a supermajority in the state Senate.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove Sen. Dave Lawson's name from the list of senators who represent districts in Sussex County. His district is in Kent County. We regret the error.