Lavelle vs. Sturgeon: A key race you ought to watch
BY City Editor
It is sometimes easy to overlook the importance of state or local politics in favor of federal elections; however, Delawareans are headed to the polls on Tuesday, and a particular state senate election could determine the course of state politics for the next two years.
Democrat Laura Sturgeon is challenging incumbent Republican Greg Lavelle for the state senate seat in District 4 in the northwest corner of Delaware. This is one of the more hotly contested races in the State.
There are currently 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the senate of the Delaware General Assembly. Only eight of the 10 senate seats are contested. At this point, it seems unlikely that any of the other state senate races will swing.
Sturgeon has never before held elected office, yet the race between her and Lavelle could shift the balance of power drastically. If elected, Sturgeon would be the 12th Democrat in the state senate, giving her party a great advantage over just nine Republicans.
Lavelle was a member of the Delaware House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013, at which time he was elected to the state senate, where he now serves as the minority whip. He has also been actively involved with a number of civic associations and nonprofits. Lavelle currently serves as the managing director for the Puglisi & Associates banking firm in Newark.
Lavelle received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the university and a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
“My education and 30-year finance career help to focus on responsible and transparent budgets,” Lavelle said in a campaign statement. “A strong economy equals a strong DE and a brighter future for all.”
During this year’s campaign season, Lavelle generally presented himself as a fiscal conservative and an independent combatting Delaware’s one-party rule under the Democrats. His main campaign platforms include fostering business growth to create jobs via tax reform, making the state government more transparent and opposing tax increases. He has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
As minority whip, Lavelle played a decisive role in resisting a proposed income tax increase in 2016. In 2013, Lavelle voted against the bill that prevents businesses from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and against the bill which legalized same-sex marriage in Delaware.
Sturgeon’s campaign to unseat Lavelle has largely followed Democratic Party lines. She advocates for paid family leave for Delawareans, banning assault weapons and repealing the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentencing. She has received an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden.
At the university, Sturgeon received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees before becoming a public school teacher. She is a board member of the Delaware State Education Association, the state’s largest union.
“I think the main difference between [Lavelle] and I is he’s not compassionate,” Sturgeon said at the Pink Wave Rally in Newark on Oct. 8. “He’s fiscally conservative to the point of not appearing to care about people. He’s numbers-driven.”
This race has been highly contentious compared to other state elections this cycle. There have been several skirmishes between the two candidates this year as they exchanged accusations of lying. For instance, Lavelle has accused that Sturgeon of having exaggerated the amount of time she has lived in District 4.
On Aug. 6, the state Republican Party accused Sturgeon’s campaign of distributing a letter that claimed she had “lived in the district since she was a toddler and has been a public school teacher here for the past 24 years” to hundreds of voters.
In fact, Sturgeon was born within District 4 lines; however, she moved to Newark to attend the university in the 1990s and then moved to Maryland with her husband before returning to District 4 in 2012. She has never taught at a public school within District 4.
Should Sturgeon unseat Lavelle, then the Democrats in the state senate would have a three-vote advantage. This would give them the ability to more frequently introduce legislation, which in previous years may have been at a greater risk to fail due to swing votes. That extra senate seat will likely endow the Democrats with more confidence and further cement their party’s control over Delaware politics.