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 CarperBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Prosecutors drop charges over Flint water crisis | US blames Iran for attack on oil tankers | Air Force diverted M for chemical cleanup costs | Criminal cases referred by Interior at near 25-year low 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.

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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) CrowleyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Pelosi, Clinton among attendees at memorial reception for Ellen Tauscher Dems walk Trump trade tightrope 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 TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' 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.