DOVER, Del. — Former Delaware Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester won the Democratic primary for U.S. House on Tuesday, positioning herself to become the first African-American and first woman to represent the state in Congress.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Rochester had 27,750 votes, or 43.8 percent in a six-way race. The second-highest vote-getter, state Sen. Bryan Townsend of Newark, got just under 25 percent of the votes.
Rochester attributed her victory to running a positive campaign and listening to voters up and down the state.
“People were looking for positive problem-solvers, and they felt the message we put out and the campaign we ran was positive,” said Rochester, who said her focus would be jobs, the economy and equal pay for equal work.
If elected in November, Rochester would find herself a freshman Democrat from one of the country’s smallest states in what likely will be a Republican-led House. She said she was looking forward to working with Republicans.
“I’ve been able to do it here in Delaware, and I’m actually excited about doing it in Washington,” said Rochester, who will face Republican Hans Reigle, an aviation instructor and former Air Force pilot, in November’s general election.
Rochester began her political career as a case worker for then-U.S. Rep. Tom Carper — now Delaware’s senior senator — and served in appointed positions as labor secretary, state personnel director and deputy secretary of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services.
She also has served as CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.
With Democrats far outnumbering Republicans in Delaware, Rochester and other winners of Democratic primaries Tuesday will have the numbers stacked in their favor as they head into November.
Rochester won in a crowded field of candidates vying to replace fellow Democrat John Carney Jr. as Delaware’s sole representative in the U.S. House. Carney opted to run for governor after former Attorney General Beau Biden died last year after having announced his intentions to run for governor.
Carney will face State Sen. Colin Bonini of Dover, who defeated retired state trooper Lacey Lafferty in Tuesday’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
“I do think we have a chance,” Bonini said. “It is a change year, and folks are ready for change, and I think the Democrats quite frankly have not done a very good job.”
Bonini said his campaign focus would be: “The economy, the economy the economy, public schools and crime.”
“The economy is the bottom line,” he said. “Prosperity solves so many issues.”
In another statewide race, state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long of Middletown led a field of six candidates to win the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, an office that has sat vacant since former incumbent Matt Denn became attorney general in January 2015.
Hall-Long will face Republican La Mar Gunn of Dover in November.
In other primary contests, challengers defeated Democratic incumbents in races for state insurance commissioner and New Castle County executive, and Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams lost his bid for re-election amid voter frustration over his inability to fulfill a promise to stem violent crime in Delaware’s largest city, which was dubbed in a 2014 Newsweek article as “Murder Town USA.”