IN & OUT IN DOVER
Posted: Nov. 12, 2014
By Celia Cohen
Just about any legislator who could lose, did.
The 2014 election was ruthless in the way vulnerable members of the Delaware General Assembly were cast out.
Bye-bye, John Atkins. So long, Bob Venables. Sussex County voters, residing in the most conservative reaches of the state, decided not even being a conservative Democrat was enough to keep them around. They fell to conservative Republicans.
Atkins, a state representative who was the good-ole-bad-boy of the legislature, was regarded as the most endangered of all in Legislative Hall after he was barely re-elected by 69 votes in 2012, and Venables was the oldest state senator at 81.
It leaves Pete Schwartzkopf as the only Democrat in the entire legislature from a district south of Dover. Sussex County knows enough about political power not to throw out the speaker.
"When Democrats don't come out to vote, that's what happens, I guess," Schwartzkopf said.
Altogether, the Democrats lost three seats but kept their majorities in the state Senate and state House of Representatives in an election of massive gains for the Republicans around the country.
Next to Atkins and Venables, the legislator considered most likely to go was Dennis Williams, a Democratic state representative whose elections in a Brandywine Hundred district were always a close call. This time he went.
The most ironic exit? That had to be Don Blakey, a Republican state representative from Kent County. The Republicans wanted to make inroads with African-American voters this election season, and instead it was the Republicans themselves who ousted Blakey, the only African-American Republican they had in the legislature, by taking him out in a primary.
The most ridiculous loss? It can be blamed on Becky Walker, a Democratic state representative who tried to pull a fast one by not getting off the ballot until after the filing deadline, so the candidate of her choice could be selected by the party to run in her place. The finagling failed when the voters in this lower New Castle County district balked and elected the Republican candidate, instead.
The most costly flip of a seat? That goes back to Venables, because it gives the Republicans the vote they needed in the state Senate to block tax bills, which require a three-fifths super-majority.
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The old Senate: 13-8 Democratic. The new Senate: 12-9 Democratic.
The old House of Representatives: 27-14 Democratic. The new House: 25-16 Democratic.