Chris Coons easily fends off progressive challenger in Delaware primary

Republican opponent has voiced support for QAnon conspiracy theory

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who easily won his Democratic primary Tuesday, is bidding for a second full term. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who easily won his Democratic primary Tuesday, is bidding for a second full term. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 15, 2020 at 10:02pm

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons comfortably beat back a challenge from his left in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Coons was leading digital strategist Jessica Scarane 79 percent to 21 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 9:24 p.m. Eastern time. 

On the GOP side, activist Lauren Witzke defeated the state party’s endorsed candidate, becoming the latest winner of a congressional primary to have publicly expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. But her bid to become Delaware’s first Republican senator in 20 years faces an uphill climb in the deep-blue state that backed Hillary Clinton by 11 points in 2016.

In her challenge to Coons, Scarane, 34, picked up support from groups such as the Sunrise Movement and 350 Action, which have backed other progressive challengers across the country. She had hoped to follow in the footsteps of progressive Democrats who’ve defeated House Democratic incumbents in deep-blue districts in 2018 and earlier this year.

Coons, 57, first entered the Senate after winning a 2010 special election to serve out the rest of Joe Biden’s term after he became vice president. He’s built a strong relationship with Biden and has the ear of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Witzke, 32, was leading Marine veteran and lawyer Jim DeMartino 57 percent to 43 percent when the AP called the GOP primary at 10:16 p.m. Eastern time.

She ran on an “America First” platform, modeled after President Donald Trump’s own campaign agenda. Her policy goals include plans to impose a moratorium on immigration and to address the opioid epidemic. (Witzke has spoken of her history with opioid addiction and working for cartels before her recovery.)

While she has denied accusations that she supports QAnon, which alleges a “deep-state” plot against Trump, Witzke has spoken approvingly of the conspiracy theory in the past. Other winners this cycle to have voiced support for QAnon include Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th District; Jo Rae Perkins, the GOP nominee for Senate in Oregon; and Lauren Boebert, who upset Rep. Scott Tipton in the Republican primary for Colorado’s 3rd District. (Boebert has since said she is not a follower.)

[As attacks go, calling Sen. Chris Coons ‘Christian hating’ is a doozy]

Coons ended the pre-primary reporting period with a clear cash advantage over all candidates, with $6.1 million raised through Aug. 26 compared with $172,000 for Witzke. He had $2.7 million in the bank, while Witzke had $24,000.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Delaware Senate race Solid Democratic

House race

The race for Delaware’s at-large House district will pit two-term Democratic incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester against Republican Lee Murphy, an actor who appeared on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Blunt Rochester, 58, the first woman and person of color to represent the First State in Congress, was unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Murphy, who is also a retired Amtrak engineer and conductor, was leading political newcomer Matthew Morris 71 percent to 29 percent when the AP called the GOP primary at 9:35 p.m. Eastern time.

Murphy, 68, was making his second bid for the at-large seat and had the endorsement of the Delaware GOP. He was also the state party’s preferred candidate in 2018, but lost the primary to businessman Scott Walker, who ran for governor this year.

Morris, 34, a furniture store sales manager, was convicted of first-degree aggravated assault following a 2013 incident in Philadelphia. Convicted felons can hold elected federal office depending on their conviction.

Blunt Rochester begins the general election campaign with a strong fundraising edge. She raised $1.4 million through Aug. 26, compared with Murphy’s $60,000. And she had $642,000 in her campaign coffers to $19,000 for Murphy.

Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.