DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Black political newcomer campaigning on a progressive platform has defeated the leader of Delaware’s state Senate in a Democratic primary.
Social worker Marie Pinkney garnered about 52.4% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary to defeat Senate President Pro Tem David McBride in the 13th Senate district primary.
McBride is one of the longest-serving lawmakers in Delaware history. He was first elected to the Senate in 1980 after spending two years in the House and had not had a primary challenger since 1986. He became pro tem in 2016 after serving four years as majority leader.
McBride congratulated Pinkney in a Facebook post and offered his help in her transition to serving in the Senate.
Pinkney advances to face Republican Alexander Homich in the November general election.
During the campaign, Pinkney was particularly critical of McBride for “locking up” gun-control legislation last year.
McBride declared last year that several gun-control measures, including bans on certain semiautomatic firearms and large capacity magazines, would not come out of a committee he led because support among fellow Democrats was “almost nonexistent.”
Jesse Chadderdon, executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party, said the election results suggest McBride’s position on the gun bills “ultimately had consequences,” as more than two-thirds of Democrats favor stronger control measures.
“It’s hard to say it was the only factor, but do I believe it was the most significant factor? Yes, I do,” he said.
Pinkney is one of several newcomers endorsed by Progressive Democrats for Delaware who defeated incumbent Democratic lawmakers.
“That’s a huge victory,” PDD President Jordyn Pusey said of Pinkney’s win.
In other races, newcomer Eric Morrison defeated Rep. Earl Jaques of Newark, who was facing his first primary challenge in 10 years. Morrison will face Republican Tripp Keister and Libertarian William Hinds in November. Should he win the general election, Morrison would become the first openly gay candidate elected to the General Assembly.
Progressive challenger Larry Lambert defeated Rep. Ray Siegfried, who was elected in 2018 to represent a Claymont-area district. Lambert was the runner-up to Siegfried in the 2018 Democratic primary. He will face Republican James Haubrich and Libertarian Scott Gesty in November.
A fourth candidate endorsed by Progressive Democrats for Delaware, Madinah Wilson-Anton, was leading Rep. John Viola in a Democratic primary for the 26th House District. Viola has held the Newark-area seat for 22 years. Wilson-Anton, a former legislative aide, could become the first Muslim elected to the General Assembly if she defeats Viola and then Republican Timothy Conrad in November. State elections commissioner Anthony Albence said Wednesday that officials were not anticipating any changes to unofficial vote totals showing Wilson-Anton defeating Viola by a narrow margin.
Two other progressive candidates won Democratic primaries for open state Senate seats. Sarah McBride easily won the primary for the 1st District seat and is likely to become the first openly transgender candidate elected to the General Assembly, as the district is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Attorney Kyle Evans Gay, who has been endorsed by abortion rights and gun-control groups, easily won her 5th District Democratic primary and will face incumbent Republican Sen. Cathy Cloutier in November.
Pusey said Tuesday’s results show the Democratic Party needs to start listening more to its progressive members and do more to help working people.
“They’re not really in touch with the demographics of their districts anymore,” Pusey said of incumbent lawmakers. “They’re not really advocating for things that are going to help everybody, and I think the voters are just tired of it. ... They have been holding onto power, and they haven’t been doing what the Democratic voters really want.”
Chadderdon, however, noted Democratic voters in Delaware also gave decisive primary victories to U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and Gov. John Carney, who are more centrist politicians.
Tuesday’s election should not be remembered just for the upsets of incumbent lawmakers, but for the record turnout and the demographic makeup of the Democratic Party reflected in the results, Chadderdon said.
“We’re a party that is very diverse, but our two biggest constituencies are women and people of color,” he noted, saying it should not have come as a surprise that Pinkney, a young Black woman, would be competitive in a majority-minority Senate district.
Chadderdon, a former Senate staffer, said McBride’s legacy includes his commitment to environmental stewardship and public health. He helped Delaware in 2002 become the second state, after California, to pass a law against smoking in indoor workplaces and public places.
“He was an environmentalist before it was cool to be an environmentalist,” Chadderdon said of McBride. "... He did a great amount to move environmental policy forward at a time when it wasn’t chic.”