We continue our look at Races to Watch in the First State in New Castle county where Democrats see a couple of opportunities to flip State Senate seats held by Republicans.
One is in the 7th State Senate District and Delaware Public Media’s Roman Battaglia introduces us to the candidates competing in what’s expected to be a close race.
Incumbent State Sen. Anthony Delcollo narrowly won the seat back in 2016 by defeating then-Senate President Pro Temp Patricia Blevins by just 282 votes.
The Republican won in a district where Democrats hold a 2-to-1 registration edge by running a campaign based on post partisanship, focusing on collaborating to fix the issues facing the state rather than tying allegiance to a party.
He’s facing Democratic challenger Spiros Mantzavinos, former legislative aide turned lobbyist turned state employee who seeks to turn the district blue again.
Mantzavinos says he decided to run after his father passed away earlier this year because of COVID-19. He recalls healthcare has followed him throughout his life.
“You know, healthcare is under attack and this is something, raising my kids, being an only child and a caregiver for my parents who were aging; I had a firsthand view of the healthcare system. And I could see that there were challenges whether it’s getting appointments with specialists, whether it’s making sure that my parents could afford their medications.”
Delcollo was motivated to seek office after taking part in Leadership Delaware in 2015.
“It definitely said to me, you know what, maybe the way that I wanna be civically engaged and perhaps the way that I can contribute - maybe this inkling of an idea that maybe I could run for office one day, maybe I should just do it. And here we are.”
Recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic is on the top of both candidates minds.
Mantzavinos ties Coronavirus to healthcare and economic opportunity, saying those lowest on the income ladder are disproportionately affected, but receiving the least amount of help.
“You know, making sure that people can have the support they need to get through this economically whether it’s making sure the unemployment insurance is getting through; Healthcare, again, making sure that people have access to healthcare through all of this.”
Both candidates agree ensuring benefits are arriving quickly and smoothly is a priority during the pandemic.
Delcollo says he continues to hear from constituents trying to navigate the crisis.
“You know, the questions about: what do I do with this new requirement, I’m a small business,how do I accommodate that, What’s the rule here, I went into some other business and I wasn’t sure what to do with this or that situation. There are those questions that arise.”
Mantzavinos has spent much of his time in the State Senate debates arguing that he represents the values voters care about in the 7th district.
“My opponent has a record. And, you know, it’s important that people understand where my opponent stands on different issues when it comes to his votes. And making sure that I share with people that my values and the approach I would take should I be elected are more in line with the residents of the 7th district.”
A lot of Mantzavinos’ time is spent highlighting the problems he sees in Delcollo’s record as a state senator.
Delcollo faces an uphill battle in this race. His opponent has outraised him by $70,000 and has that registration advantage.
But he says the voters didn’t choose him because of his political affiliation.
“People express a firmative disdain for the histrionics and the DC style, hyper-partisan shenanigans. So I do think there are some folks, many folks at the grassroots who are tired of it - who wanna see their elected representatives act in a decent, compassionate way, get things done for them, and put them first.”
Delcollo says despite GOP candidates running statewide moving further toward the right fringes of the party, he and others like Rep. Mike Smith represent a bastion of moderate conservatism and a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions in the General Assembly.
And he says he acts as a check on the Democratic majority.
“The system itself matters in having balance and having a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives is valbule. And it brings value because we can have accountability and transparency and the willingness to not allow things slide or to turn a blind eye.”
One topic brought up in previous debates was access to abortions in the First State. Mantzavinos emphasizes his support for a woman’s right to choose.
“Looking ahead, there’s going to be a lot of a lot of issues involving healthcare and women’s rights. Obviously there’s a lot of speculation about what’s going to happen at the supreme court, now with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as it comes to a number of protections that we’ve all come to expect.”
Delcollo claims his opponent paints him as an enemy of women's rights, but he says a woman’s right to choose is a fundamental civil right just like the right to free speech.
“Access to abortion as far as I know is not an issue and I’ve never heard a single concern about that from a constituent ever; that they haven’t been able to access that or that’s not available.”
Delcollo adds even if Roe V. Wade were to be overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court, that issue would go back to the states, and Delaware would still be in a position to protect a woman’s right to privacy in her medical decisions.
This election is one of a few that could determine the direction of the Republian party in Delaware. If Delcollo is successful while the statewide candidates lose, it could be a signal there is still a path forward for centrist candidates to run and win in future elections.