Historic turnout in Delaware primary shows Democrats are fired up for the midterms

Mark Makela for The Washington Post via Getty ImagesSupporters listen to Kerri Harris.
  • On a summer Thursday on the US east coast, with temperatures hovering in the 90s, more people voted in Delaware’s primary elections than ever before in the state’s history.
  • Far exceeding turnout expectations, nearly 54,000 Democrats voted for Sen. Tom Carper, while 29,000 voted for his more progressive challenger, Kerri Evelyn Harris.

On Thursday, three-term incumbent Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, faced his first serious primary challenge.

The race in the small blue state received significant national media attention as Carper’s challenger, community organiser Kerri Evelyn Harris, hoped to become the next progressive insurgent to topple an establishment Democrat in this year’s primaries.

Voter enthusiasm ran high on Thursday – but not just for the insurgent.

In his 30-point victory over Harris, the popular centrist senator brought out nearly 54,000 voters, while Harris won about 29,000. Harris’s campaign thought Carper could be defeated if Harris managed to win 26,000 votes, but voter turnout crushed all of the campaign’s expectations.

On a summer weekday, with temperatures hovering in the 90s, more Delawareans voted in the state’s primary elections than ever before in the state’s history.

The total number of Democratic voters – just over 83,000 – was just 10,000 votes short of those cast in the 2016 presidential primary.

Meanwhile, Republican turnout went from nearly 70,000 voters in the 2016 primary to just under 38,000 on Thursday.

Both candidates worked hard to increase voter turnout. While Harris focused on reaching new voters, young people, and people of colour, Carper hit the road in his minivan.

Carper said on election day that Delaware Democrats are more engaged than ever in politics, but that they’re not looking for an insurgent to take on the current administration, but instead a principled politician willing to compromise with the GOP.

“Delaware’s almost schizophrenic, and I think the country is too. They want us to stop Trump from doing more stupid and, in some cases, cruel things, at the same time they want us to try to find common ground on a number of other issues,” the senator told CNN on Thursday. “And I think you can do both. I think you can do both.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.