Guest Post From Evan Queitsch

vote     The following is a guest post concerning upcoming primaries.

Well, it is silly season once again, the signs are going up across Delaware and as always, there are interesting races going on.  I’ve largely stepped out of the political sphere, mostly because societal change moves elections, elections don’t make societal change.  Still, there remain some races that fascinate, perplex and amuse me this year.  Neither the Republican or Democrat parties are united in support of candidates up and down the ballot and following the contentious 2010 and 2012 election years, it’s surprising some who expected the years following the “rise of the TEA Party” to be more mellow.  Here are my “Races to Watch” for 2014 (beginning with National races and moving to local contests) on a scale of 1-5:

US Senate: Carl Smink vs Kevin Wade vs Chris Coons
Type: GOP Primary, then General Election
Interest Level: 4
Reason:  Let’s face it, anytime you have a Primary where one candidate up and leaves not just the state but the country and flies halfway around the world in July of an Election year, you have a race of interest.  On one side of the GOP Primary, you have Kevin Wade, a hard working guy who worked his way through college, gaining his BS in Electrical Engineering and who went on to start his own engineering business.  A business that he still runs today.  He’s a man of faith and a veteran of two national campaigns.  Now, I like Kevin Wade and I think that he is one of the most sincere and honest men that I have ever met (which says a lot being that I met him through my involvement in politics, where honesty and sincerity are as scarce as fire in a downpour).  I believe that he does sincerely desire to support Israel and for that, I admire him and his courage to visit a nation in turmoil to see firsthand what conditions are like.  In this digital age, staying in contact with people over long distances is as easy as it is ever likely to be but the idea of campaigning with live Tweets from Israel is an interesting strategy.  It belies either a deep belief in one’s own popularity among the Primary voters, a lack of respect for the Primary challenger’s ability to close the deal here on the ground or a mix of both.  It’s a risky strategy and frankly, one that I disagree with.  Some have questioned Mr. Wade’s advisors and whether it was their idea to have Kevin go to Israel and stage a live Twitter campaign as a way to gain publicity and perhaps more importantly, favor among Jewish voters.  It’s a cynical view of the situation but not out of the realm of possibility.  On the other side of the Primary challenge sits Carl Smink, an 81-year old veteran of the U.S. Air Force, retired environmental engineer and Sussex resident and what appears to be, a staunch conservative.  I haven’t met Mr. Smink but from what I gather, he appears to be a rather staunch conservative, deeply grounded in his faith and prepared to serve his God and his State in Washington.  Mr. Smink has been actively campaigning and spent a lot of time on the ground at the State Fair, perhaps more than Mr. Wade was able to spend with his travel itinerary.  The Primary contest should be a battle of ideas and a display of who is more prepared to take on incumbent Democrat Senator Chris Coons, unfortunately, some in the Wade campaign have chosen to focus on Mr. Smink’s age, which they say, should be a consideration when voters go to the polls on September 9th.  They say, should Mr. Smink win both the Primary challenge and the General Election and experience a health issue that forces him to need to leave office before the end of his 6 year term, that the presumed Democrat Governor would then be able to appoint a Democrat to the seat.  There’s an awful lot of presumptions and presuppositions in that kind of an argument and I’m not sure that the Delaware GOP Primary voters are looking forward to yet another potentially nasty Primary season.  Regardless of who wins, there will be an uphill battle to beat Senator Coons come November and the late Primary in Delaware does not afford challengers with much time to connect with other voters.  With Smink being a relative unknown and Wade still in Israel, campaigning via Twitter, the question is, will Senator Coons be able to coast to reelection or will the Delaware GOP emerge on September 10th prepared to mount a real challenge?

State Treasurer: Sean Barney vs Chip Flowers
Type: Democrat Primary
Interest Level: 2
Reason:  There’s some interest in this race as it illustrates that there is in fact, dysfunction among the Democrats in Delaware.  Let’s start with Chip Flowers, the sitting State Treasurer.  Chip’s no stranger to Primary campaigns.  Chip defeated Velda Jones-Potter in the 2010 Democrat Primary before going on to beat Colin Bonini in a close race in the General Election.  Jones-Potter was Markell’s pick for the position and Chip bucked the system by being one of the only Democrats in recent history to invoke the words of Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.  He went on to further anger now Governor Markell (who had previously been the State Treasurer) by not only challenging his previous initiatives but proving them to be wrong.  In the months leading up to the Primary filing date, Flowers was embroiled in a potential scandal involving his travel expenses.  An investigation by the State Auditor’s Office found that Flowers had traveled for legitimate business purposes.  Flowers’ Primary challenger is longtime Democrat operative, Sean Barney.  Barney served as Governor Markell’s campaign manager and then his policy director and has been a longtime staff member of Senator Carper.  Barney is a Marine who enlisted after 9/11 (despite being eligible for the Officer’s Corps) and was hit by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq.  Sean comes with an impressive list of endorsements (especially from the Progressive wing of the Democrat Party) but appears to be short on the kind of experience needed for the Treasurer’s office (namely, financial expertise).  His resume, according to his own LinkedIn page, lists him as a graduate of Swarthmore College, the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law School.  In addition to his service as an 0311 (Infantry) in the USMC, Sean has served as a Speechwriter for Bill Bradley’s Presidential campaign, a Policy Director for Senator Carper, a Legislative Assistant with Senator Carper, Governor Markell’s Campaign Manager and Policy Director but has no financial background.  By contrast, Flowers entered office as a BA in Economics from UPenn, a Masters of Business Administration (heavy on financials) and a law degree from Georgetown.  Since then, he’s had a full term in office and demonstrated that his bold plans and ideas work.  He continues to innovate, offering new and innovative solutions to proactively protect Delaware’s investments.  I supported Bonini in 2010 but I can’t say that I am displeased with how Flowers has handled Delaware’s $2 billion portfolio.  It’s certainly a different approach than the one in place before he took office and the one offered by Bonini but Flowers has proven that Democrats CAN be fiscally responsible.  Flowers enjoys similar bipartisan support across the state with few people overly excited to mount a challenge in light of the moves that Flowers has made.  That makes it all the more curious as to why the Progressive Democrats would risk this office by promoting a guy who, despite a heroic and honorable service record, offers little in the way of a financial background.  More importantly, why would the Progressive Democrats risk the financial future of Delaware and our citizens?  I can’t help but think that our highest level offices carry too much weight to toss them around as political paybacks. The bulk of Barney’s policy plan appears to be to return to the Markell era ideas (which produced lower returns than Flowers has) and a willingness to submit to the whims of the “Cash Management Policy Board” without question.  If this race were going to be decided on the merits of the candidates, Flowers would win in a landslide.  However, politics, especially in Delaware, tend to be more of a popularity contest than a “best person for the job” contest.  It will be interesting to see just how the Democrat Primary voters treat this election.  Depending on the results of the Republican Primary for the same office (see below), their choice could mean a change in the Party in control of the Treasurer’s Office.

State Treasurer: Ken Simpler vs Sher Valenzuela
Type: GOP Primary
Interest Level: 3
Reason:  Much like the Democrat Primary for the same office, the GOP Primary for State Treasurer is a curious one.  First, let’s look at the challenger, Sher Valenzuela.  Sher is a small business owner and former Republican choice for Lt. Governor.  Sher has been recognized with various awards for her business acumen and the success of the enterprise that she and her husband built as a way to provide more flexibility for them to care for their autistic son, is unquestionable.  Her campaign for Lt. Governor, while unsuccessful at the polls, put her on the map as an up and coming sensation in the party.  She was tapped to deliver a primetime address at the 2012 Republican National Convention and she’s been an asset to helping find and recruit excellent candidates both in Delaware and across the country.  Sher could have had her choice of offices to pick in many ways.  The question is, why would she choose the State Treasurer’s office when there was already a well-qualified candidate who had established himself as a candidate for the position?  While Sher has more financial and economic credentials than Sean Barney in the Democrat Primary, the most qualified candidate in this race is clearly Ken Simpler.  Ken Simpler has 20 years of financial experience.  Ken majored in Political Economics at Princeton, received his M.B.A with honors from the University of Chicago and his Juris Doctorate from University of Chicago Law School.  He’s currently enrolled in a Master’s program at UD in the Public Policy and Administration program.  He began his career as a financial lawyer; then became Managing Director at the global investment fund Citadel, LLC and is the current owner and CFO of Seaboard Hotels.  I haven’t met Ken but his experience and his ideas speak for themselves. From a nuts and bolts perspective, I just don’t see the need for a Primary here.  Looking at this from the Republican perspective, if Flowers wins, Simpler’s experience will be key in mounting an effective challenge and if Barney wins, Simpler’s experience and plan could be enough to take the office away from the Democrats and show the people of Delaware that Conservative fiscal policy works.   Simply put, I just don’t see a point to Sher entering this race.  A political purity test (again, I don’t know Ken, he could be a staunch conservative, his social beliefs are not of concern in a Treasurer’s race as I see it) in this case would be nothing short of a complete waste of time.  Action for the sake of remaining relevant, as some have suggested, is a stretch.  Sher is still well known and a sought after commodity in the political world.  Her website says that her reason for running “couldn’t be simpler” but I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.  In a piece on her Facebook page, with the same title, Sher claims that “Citadel, LLC was cited as an example of what led to the stock market crash”, however, Citadel continues to be a top performing hedge fund and global equity firm.  Perhaps more troubling than that, her post cites Simpler as having worked for “Citadel Investments” and links to a Wikipedia page for “Citadel, LLC” which specifically states that “Citadel LLC is not related to any of the following organizations…Citadel Investments (a New York based mortgage broker)”.  Mr. Simpler did indeed work for Citadel, LLC and NOT Citadel Investments.  Her other reason for not supporting Simpler appears to be related to a venture he was involved in that would have expanded gambling by building a Casino at the beach.  Simpler answered her concerns in an interview posted on DelawarePolitics.net in which he explains that the proposal was made in response to the idea of adding a 4th casino in Delaware in the Millsboro area without any competitive bidding.  The report that Mr. Simpler presented, supposed that IF the State of Delaware were to consider expanding gambling, in order for it to be profitable, it would have to do something unique, placing the casino in a “destination” (like the beaches) and using land owned by the state (reducing overhead costs).  It also predicted a decline in casino revenues due to competition from surrounding states.  The report turned out to be 100% correct.  It was also a crony deal at best, brokered as it was by the son of a State Senator (Clinton Bunting) and a high profile resort owner.  It was rightfully balked at as well.  Truth is, I still don’t see the point of the primary.

State Treasurer: Ken Simpler/Sher Valenzuela vs Chip Flowers/Sean Barney
Type: General Election
Interest Level: 3
Reason:  Whoever wins on each side, it will be fascinating to see if the people of the State of Delaware vote on merit or on party affiliation.

Attorney General: Ted Kittila vs Matt Denn
Type: General Election
Interest Level: 3
Reason:  It will be weird not having a Biden in Delaware State government.  As we look at this race, we again see a disparity in experience.  Since neither is an incumbent, let’s go with the Republican first.  Ted Kittila is a practicing attorney and managing partner with a Wilmington firm that focuses on corporate and civil litigation instead of criminal law.  He has a B.A. from UD in International Relations and received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.  His lack of experience in a criminal court or as a prosecutor is a detriment but he seems to have a sound vision for the AG’s office along with plenty of recent law experience.  On the other side of the ballot is current Lt. Governor, Matt Denn.  Denn is graduate of UC Berkeley who went on to Yale Law School.  2 years out of Yale, Denn became a Partner at Young, Conaway, Stargatt and Taylor (one of Delaware’s most powerful and politically connected firms).  9 years later, following a failed run for State Senate, Denn became Governor Ruth Ann Minner’s legal counsel and soon after that, became our state Insurance Commissioner.  3 years after becoming Insurance Commissioner, Denn became our Lt. Governor.  For the past 13 years, Denn has been a politician, not a practicing lawyer.  Now, that doesn’t mean he CAN’T know the law, certainly, as a politician, laws are an integral part of the job, but after a decade of having the AGs office used as a political weapon instead of a tool to provide justice, the question is, do we need another politician who happened to go to Law School or do we want someone who has been in the trenches in recent years to lead our Justice Department?

State Senate District 11: Dave Tackett vs Bryan Townsend
Type: Democrat Primary
Interest Level: 5
Reason:  It’s literally in my own back (and front) yard.  Of COURSE I care.  Look, it’s no secret that Bryan Townsend beat me in 2012.  No one who reads this blog is likely to miss that point.  It’s also no secret that Bryan has gone on to be a progressive darling to his core base (which of course, liberty minded people like myself see as a nightmare).  However, if there is one thing that Bryan has done from the beginning without missing a beat, it’s campaign.  He’s been groomed for it his whole life and frankly, he’s tremendous at it.  He’s got an educational resume 10 miles long but the highlights are undergraduate and graduate degrees from UD, a Masters at Cambridge University (yes, the one in England) and a Yale Law Degree.  He’s also devoted time strategically with local charities and had done some legal work pro-bono before being swept into office in the knockdown, drag out 2012 Democrat Primary with Tony DeLuca (and then steamrolled me in the General, lest we all forget).  In fact, in this heavily Democrat district, to quote one of my friends over on Delaware Liberal, the only knock against the kid’s political campaign might be failing to crack 80% against me in the General Election.  Word is that Bryan has recently married his sweetheart and I congratulate them and welcome him to the club.  His seat looked safe after the 2012 trouncing as Republicans learned just how heavily Democrat this district is and really, the only thing that could change the situation was another Primary.  But after Bryan’s decisive win, you would think that all would be great within the party who holds all centers of power in Delaware.  However, all is not peachy within the Democrat ranks.  Longtime County Councilman Dave Tackett is stepping up to challenge Bryan in 2014.  Tackett is a married father of 4 girls.  He holds a B.S. from Wilmington College and has been an Amtrack employee for 23 years.  He has served in various public leadership positions from civic association president to President of his Local union and the 7&40 Alliance.  He’s been serving in County Council for 10 years.  He and his wife homeschool their children and are active members of the community, volunteering their time and energy in many ways.  Now this is a Democrat Primary between a Progressive wing and a Labor wing for all intents and purposes.  Bryan was able to defeat a very unpopular and corrupt villain in Tony DeLuca in 2012 but will he be able to do the same thing with a popular County Councilman who is no slouch in the “constituent services” department?  With people increasingly looking for people who can “work across the aisle” and get things done, will they support a County Councilman with wide bi-partisan support or a sitting State Senator, swept into office over a corrupt maestro of cronyism who Co-Sponsored controversial measures like mandatory background checks on private firearms transfers and the repeal of the state’s Death Penalty?

State Representative District 22: Joe Miro vs Mike Smith
Type: Republican Primary
Interest Level: 4
Reason:  This race has been coming for a LONG time.  Yes, the 22nd District is a Republican stronghold, one of the very few in New Castle County.  Yes, Joe Miro has been there for a long time.  And yes, he has survived a primary challenge in recent years when his District lines were combined with most of Nick Manalakos’ former District during the last gerrymandering process.  All of this is true.  However, Joe Miro has never had a challenger quite like Mike Smith.   Mike is younger but he already has an impressive resume.  He has a B.A. and a Masters in Public Administration from UD and he is married with one child and another coming.  He’s the Executive Director of the Greater Newark Economic Development Partnership, a former staffer for Congressman Mike Castle, and serves on a number of education boards.  He says the right things on the really important issues of the day, jobs, education and economic development and frankly, the 22nd District has been looking for someone to replace Joe Miro.  I know many in the 22nd who have long salivated over the idea of a young, conservative, business oriented leader who could emerge from the Hockessin area as a Republican and Mike Smith looks like he could be that leader.  And before you say it, yes, I’m backing the former Castle staffer.  But, Mike’s not going to just walk in and sit down.  Joe Miro has been around for a while (apparently before the internet since he doesn’t have a campaign website).  He’s walked every block in the 22nd a thousand times and he’s more than ready to dust off the campaign shoes, of that you can be sure.  He’s been a State Representative for 16 years.  Before that, he was on County Council for 6 years.  From 1970-20001, Joe was a teacher in the Christina School District and today he owns Miro Diversified Services.  He has served on a host of boards and in leadership positions and holds a BA from Lincoln University and a Masters from West Chester University.  Joe is a good man, a decent man and a very politically expedient man.  He doesn’t ruffle many feathers (except his base, which he has calculated, will support him in a General Election) and he plays the political game.  With that said, Joe’s been hanging on the last 4 years.  People aren’t exactly excited about Joe, but they know he is safe option.  Are the residents of the 22nd finally ready to take a chance on a young conservative or will they stick with the sure thing?  One monkey wrench being thrown in the mix is the Libertarian candidate, Steve Newton.    As 3rd party candidates go, he’s as good as they come and he might be just enough to scare some Republicans away from taking the chance on the new guy.

These are the races that I am watching.  I’m interested in hearing what races you are looking at, looking forward to or are just plain baffled by.

  Evan Queitsch

5 Comments on "Guest Post From Evan Queitsch"

  1. FLYLADY says:

    ” With Smink being a relative unknown and Wade still in Israel, campaigning via Twitter, the question is, will Senator Coons be able to coast to reelection or will the Delaware GOP emerge on September 10th prepared to mount a real challenge?”

    Oh please! At the time of this guest post, Kevin Wade had been back in the country for over a week. Since this was common knowledge, and stated on posts on this site as early as last Monday, why on earth would you close your comments on this race with THAT question?

  2. EvanQueitsch says:

    Flylady…
    I wrote this last weekend and submitted it before Kevin would have returned. That the site administrators chose to wait a few days to post couldn’t have been foreseen.

    With that said, the main point stands, I’m not sure how effective and smart campaign in via Twitter from Israel is in a Delaware Primary Election. Furthermore, the question posed here is still relevant. One candidate is relatively unknown, the other has spent a number of weeks, which could have been spent at the very least, reaching out to the voters he’ll need to woo in order to beat Coons, in Israel. Neither really gets me excited about an opportunity to win this seat.

  3. FLYLADY says:

    Evan,

    Fair enough. Not surprised they chose to wait. I did like the rest of the post, though! :-)

  4. Frank Knotts says:

    I will only confirm that Evan is correct, Delaware Right did not post this as soon as we received it. Not sure what FlyLady meant by not being surprised.

  5. EvanQueitsch says:

    They are generally timely with the posts. Timing aside, I’m glad that you enjoyed the piece. These are the most interesting races as I see them.

Got something to say? Go for it!