Carper fends off progressive challenger in Delaware primary

Carper fends off progressive challenger in Delaware primary
© Greg Nash, Hill.tv

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE (D-Del.) warded off a primary challenge on Thursday from political newcomer Kerri Evelyn Harris, throwing cold water on progressives’ hopes for another upset victory over a longtime incumbent.

Carper was projected as the winner by The Associated Press, winning with 64 percent of the vote after 72 percent of precincts had reported.

His triumph came two days after progressive Ayanna Pressley notched a stunning Democratic primary win over 10-term incumbent Rep. Mike Capuano (Mass.) in a Boston-area district.

That victory rocked Massachusetts’ political establishment and boosted an already-ascendant progressive movement that has fought its way to the forefront of Democratic politics.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Delaware, a state known to embrace incumbents and bipartisan compromise, proved elusive for the insurgent left. 

Harris, a 38-year-old Air Force veteran and community organizer, billed herself on the campaign trail as a new voice for Delaware and cast Carper as an entrenched politician who had grown too cozy with corporate interests and too willing to compromise on liberal values.

On the campaign trail, she welcomed the support of other progressive firebrands, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-time candidate who vanquished Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyCrowley says he 'didn’t underestimate' Ocasio-Cortez in primary challenge Ocasio-Cortez on 2020: ‘I don’t want to be placated as a progressive’ Ocasio-Cortez holds call with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MORE (D-N.Y.) in her New York City primary in June.

Harris, who's openly gay, would also have made history as the first black senator from Delaware if elected, part of a push for change within the Democratic party from a younger and more diverse generation

But despite Harris’ efforts, she was unable to overcome Carper’s overwhelming popularity in the First State and voters’ affinity for the so-called “Delaware Way” – the culture of genteel bipartisanship and tight-knit political networks unique to the state.

Carper, 71, also enjoyed a massive fundraising advantage over Harris. The senator has raked in more than $3 million in 2018, while Harris reported raising only about $120,000, according to their federal filings.

Despite the loss, Harris's campaign succeeded in pushing Carper further to the left, with the senator echoing his opponent in calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Carper also hardened his rhetoric against President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE and recently co-sponsored the first marijuana policy reform bill of his 17-year Senate career, pushing to decriminalize it at the federal level.

Carper will now face Republican Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett in November, after he emerged the winner in the GOP primary on Thursday. But Carper will be the overwhelming favorite in a race The Cook Political Report rates as “solid Democratic." 

--Updated at 9:11 p.m.