WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Longtime U.S Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware easily fended off a Democratic primary challenge Thursday from a political newcomer who was part of an antiestablishment wave that hoped to move the party farther to the left.
Carper, 71, bested challenger Kerri Evelyn Harris, who had hoped to ride a growing antiestablishment wave within the party to victory, only to see it ebb against one of the most successful politicians in modern Delaware history.
“We need to reunite as a party,” Carper said after a primary win that kept his four-decade unbeaten campaign record intact. “We need to keep in mind that we are not one another’s enemies.”
Carper’s victory set up a November race against Rob Arlett, President Donald Trump’s former state campaign chair. Arlett, a Sussex County Councilman, defeated former PayPal executive Gene Truono in the Republican Senate primary.
Carper, who is vying for a fourth term in the Senate, touted his experience and his ability to work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, despite being a vocal Trump critic. He served five terms in the U.S. House and two terms as governor before being elected to the Senate in 2000.
Harris had hoped for a victory like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat a 10-term incumbent in a New York congressional primary in June; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who won Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary; and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who beat an incumbent in a Massachusetts primary this week.
“We’re going to just keep pushing against the machine,” Harris said. “Our voices are louder than ever, and we are not going to sit silent whenever we see any injustices.”
Carper, 71, won by nearly 30 percent over Harris, who was part of a wave of young activists emboldened by the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Harris, a black, gay Air Force veteran, ran on a platform including government-paid health care for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage and abolition of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. She tried to paint Carper as an out-of-touch, career politician beholden to corporations and their political action committees.
But Carper had a huge advantage over Harris, both in name recognition and fundraising. He raised more than $1.3 million this year, compared to a little more than $120,000 reported by Harris as of mid-August. He outspent her by a similar margin.
Arlett, the 51-year-old owner of a real estate business in southern Delaware, also likely faces an uphill battle against Carper in this heavily Democratic state. In 2012, Carper beat his general election opponent by 37 points.
During the Senate campaign, Arlett touted his support of Trump’s “America First” agenda and his socially conservative positions, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He also reminded GOP voters that Truono is openly gay and in a same-sex marriage.
Arlett has said he would work in Washington to remove burdensome regulations on businesses, improve border security and fight for free and fair trade.
He also has called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the defunding of so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Republican voters on Thursday also chose businessman Scott Walker as their nominee for Delaware’s lone U.S. House seat. He will challenge first-term Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester.