Delaware Democratic Senate nominee Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Heitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State The rule-of-law party must unite around Mueller MORE struck an independent tone after Thursday's campaign forum with Republican opponent Christine O'Donnell, telling The Hill that his views on spending and the role of government could put him at odds with some members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

The New Castle county executive labeled himself "a real fiscal conservative" and someone who has made "tough choices to cut not just the growth of government but to actually reduce the size of government at the county level."

"That would put me in some tension with some members of the Democratic caucus and administration," Coons said.

He noted that he would not have supported the "Wall Street bailout without more accountability."

In their first joint appearance of the campaign Thursday night, Coons emphasized his experience without directly referencing his opponent, the Tea Party-backed O'Donnell.

Coons did take a veiled shot at O'Donnell when he said he wasn't waiting on out-of-state endorsements, but he demurred on the influence of the Tea Party Express when asked after Thursday's forum.

"What I've said for the last six months is what matters to me most is listening to the concerns of real Delawareans," Coons said. "If there are Delawareans who are active in the Tea Party Express or for whom that's an important source of information, great. God bless them. But what matters to me is presenting my ideas and qualifications to the people of Delaware."