Races to Watch: Kelly Williams-Maresca challenging incumbent Madinah Wilson-Anton for 26th House District seat
Delaware Public Media is highlighting a series of “Races to Watch,” starting with races in the upcoming September primary as part of our 2022 election coverage.
The second race we’re highlighting this week is the Democratic Primary for the 26th House District, which sees an incumbent State Representative seeking a second term face an intra-party challenge.
DPM’s Quinn Kirkpatrick breaks down the race.
Note: multiple efforts to schedule an interview with one of the candidates in this race – Kelly Williams-Maresca – were unsuccessful.
Delaware’s 26th district encompasses a largely residential part of Newark, including the Deer Run, Salem Woods, and Woodshade neighborhoods. And the 9,537 registered Democratic voters living there have a choice between two candidates on Primary Day: incumbent Madinah Wilson-Anton and Kelly Williams-Maresca.
Wilson-Anton grew up in the 26th district and currently lives there with her family.
Wilson-Anton worked for two years as a legislative fellow in the General Assembly, and one year as a legislative aide for the 26th and 27th districts. And she’s currently a policy analyst at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.
She was elected in 2020 to represent the 26th district after defeating 22-year incumbent John Viola by 43 votes.
The 28-year-old Wilson-Anton is the youngest serving member of the General Assembly and says she’s honored to be able to bring her unique perspective to the table.
“You know there are issues that impact our generation and the generations that are coming up after us. Like climate change, for example. Like college loans and debt. Thinking about the cost of childcare on the horizon for young families. Those issues are really important to me and people who are my age,” explained Wilson-Anton.
Williams-Maresca is a business owner who founded the company Noble Territory in 2014, which was created with the intention to connect citizens to personal and professional development opportunities.
“You know there are issues that impact our generation and the generations that are coming up after us. Like climate change, for example. Like college loans and debt. Thinking about the cost of childcare on the horizon for young families. Those issues are really important to me and people who are my age."Democratic Representative Madinah Wilson-Anton, 26th House District
She has lived in Newark with her family for over 11 years, and she’s a board member at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA, and a committee member for the Delaware Democratic Party’s 26th Representative District.
Wilson-Anton’s endorsements include the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, Delaware Stonewall, the Delaware State Education Association, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Williams-Maresca has been endorsed by the education organization Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, and former 26th district State Rep. John Viola.
Williams-Marcesca lists “high-quality education” as one of her top priorities for District 26. She promises to work to ensure that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is fully implemented across our state.
On her campaign site, Williams-Maresca says championing disability rights in the First State is one of the main reasons she’s running. They are issues she is familiar with as a caregiver for a mostly nonverbal Autistic brother.
IDEA is a federal law that makes public education available to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation, and ensures special education and related services to those children. And earlier this year, House Bill 454, an act to revise Delaware Code to be consistent with federal law was signed into law.
Both Williams-Maresca and Wilson-Anton agree that Delaware’s education funding system needs to be reformed.
Wilson-Anton says her personal experiences with lack of funding in public schools while attending Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, combined with seeing advocates fighting for funding changes during her time as a staffer sparked her passion for this issue.
“And I learned that other states don’t fund them that way. And actually, other states recognize that, depending on a student's need, maybe they’re learning English as a second language, or maybe they have special needs. They’re going to need more resources in the classroom to be successful. And we should make sure all students in Delaware are getting the resources they need,” said Wilson-Anton. “So, that’s something that still needs to be addressed, and I hope to do that in the coming session.”
Williams-Maresca has similar views, and her website states she believes all Delawareans should have the ability to send their children to high-quality public schools.
Wilson-Anton is also focused on supporting working-class families, and hopes to champion a “Working Families Plan.” And affordable housing tops the list of issues she wants to address. She says it is one of the biggest issues the state faces as family homelessness jumped during the pandemic.
“It all connects, you know. It connects to your economic abilities, because one of the things that we’re seeing is all these staffing shortages, but if folks can’t afford to live close by to where jobs are, they can’t access them. So it’s a really pernicious issue but that’s something I’m really excited to be able to continue working on,” Wilson-Anton explained.
Last session, she co-sponsored a bill with State Rep. Rae Moore requiring the Department of Housing to produce a study to better understand who is affected by the affordable housing crisis, and come up with solutions.
“I was really happy to see that we were able to get some important pieces of legislation done in the past session... There were just so many great bills that we were able to get done, and we were able to get them done together.”Democratic Representative Madinah Wilson-Anton, 26th House District
Williams-Maresca's campaign site states she will advocate for policies that promote innovative ways to boost homeownership and increase affordable housing.
Williams-Maresca lists post-pandemic recovery as another priority and hopes to use her perspective as a business owner to assist businesses impacted during the pandemic and build small businesses statewide,
And on the topic of partisan politics, Williams-Maresca website expresses concerns that it has affected issues like public safety.
Wilson-Anton disagrees, saying while the current divisive atmosphere makes it seem like nothing gets done, that’s not what she’s seen working in the General Assembly.
“I was really happy to see that we were able to get some important pieces of legislation done in the past session,” said Wilson-Anton. “We were able to raise the minimum wage. There were quite a few bills that were almost unanimously supported that increased funding for mental health services in our public schools. There were just so many great bills that we were able to get done, and we were able to get them done together.”
The winner of this primary faces Republican candidate Timothy Conrad in November’s general election.