Delaware Special Election Win Shows Energized Democratic Turnout

Democrats already seem poised to turn their outrage into votes.

Tonight’s special election result in Delaware is giving Democrats nationally a boost a confidence. Delaware’s 10th State Senate District was vacated by Bethany Hall-Long, who election as Delaware’s Lieutenant Governor left the seat open. While the district is traditionally Democratic, it is also usually closely contested. A GOP win would have delivered the State Senate into their hands, neutering Delaware’s prior control of the governor’s mansion and state legislature.

Tonight’s election wasn’t just a 18-point rout for Democrat Stephanie Hansen over her GOP rival John Marino in a district that only gave the Democrat a 2-point win in 2014. This Saturday special election featured turnout that eclipsed that of 2014. Per David Nir:

This one is a done deal: with only one precinct to go, the margin is still 59-41, a raw vote edge of over 2100 votes.

Side note: turnout in this Saturday special election is likely to eclipse the district turnout in the 2014 general election, the last election in this particular legislative district. Both a U.S. Senate and U.S. House race were on the ballot on that day.

It was also roughly double the turnout for a normal special election:

Not only did Dems hold the Senate in Delaware today, turnout was roughly double a normal special election. Trump has made nothing normal.

The obvious caveats apply: it’s a small district in Delaware that received national attention because it’s the first significant election since the November of Trump, and it comes at a time when Democrats across the country are particularly motivated and furious.

That said, this election was the first bellwether test to see if the mobilization Democratic activists have been seeing on the ground was reflective just of a smallish number of newly mobilized discontents, or of a much broader awakened anti-Trump revolt in the electorate. The women’s march was one piece of evidence in favor of the latter, but it wasn’t clear how actual elections might be impacted. The result in Delaware seems to indicate that the impact may be very large indeed.

Republicans saw similar reasons for optimism in special elections prior to November 2010, that Democrats tended to dismiss at their peril. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

If Democrats can maintain the sort of momentum on display in Delaware tonight into November 2018, Republicans might well be in for a shellacking of their own–voter suppression and gerrymandering notwithstanding.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.