Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa.
Photo by Mark Makela/Getty

Why a state Senate race in Delaware became national news

Updated
Technically, there have been a few elections since Donald Trump became president last month. In early February, a Democrat won a special election in an Iowa state House district, and a week later, a Dem cruised to an easy victory in a special election in a Virginia state House district.

But those races were largely overlooked outside their local areas and for good reason: they didn’t dictate control of any legislative chambers; they didn’t attract the attention of any national figures; and they weren’t in competitive districts where the outcome was in doubt.

The state Senate special election in Delaware, however, was a very different story. The News Journal in Wilmington reported:
Democrat Stephanie Hansen won the special election for the 10th District Senate seat Saturday, capturing 58 percent of the votes cast and preserving her party’s control of the Legislature.

The race drew national attention and donations from across the country. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley both campaigned on Hansen’s behalf in the weeks leading up to the election.
In her victory speech, Hansen declared, “This was the first swing election in the country since the inauguration. It was the first chance for voters to rise up with one voice to say we’re bigger than the bullies. It was the first chance for voters to declare with one loud voice that we’re better than the politics of fear and division. What we accomplished together will have implications for our entire state and country, and I think tonight they’re hearing us loud and clear in all corners of this country – and certainly in D.C. and in Dover.”

Democrats have held Delaware’s state Senate for nearly a half-century, but that control was at stake on Saturday, which is precisely why national Democrats were so eager to get involved. For Republicans to gain power in a blue state a month into the Trump era would have been an embarrassing setback.

And as the dust settled on Saturday night, the opposite had happened.

Hansen, who launched a television ad last week starring Joe Biden, prevailed by a wide margin: Republican John Marino lost this same district in 2014 by two points, but lost by 16 points on Saturday. Just as important, the Dem won with far stronger turnout than expected: a Daily Kos analysis added, “The turnout … was more than a third of the registered 35,673 voters in the district, quite good for a special election.”

Indeed, turnout was higher on Saturday than it was in the same district in the 2014 congressional midterms.

Looking ahead, the next big races are in April, with a primary in California’s congressional special election in the 34th district on April 4. Two weeks later, on April 16, is primary day in Georgia’s 6th district, a traditional Republican stronghold where Democrats see an opportunity.

* Correction: In the first paragraph, I neglected to mention that there was a special legislative election in Minnesota two weeks ago, which a Republican won by a much-narrower-than-expected margin.