Democratic Sen. Tom Carper fended off an outsider challenger Thursday in the Delaware primary, bucking the trend of liberal activists coalescing around minority candidates to oust long-established white men.
Kerri Harris, a biracial, gay, Air Force veteran and a community activist, was hoping to become the third women of color to oust an older white male incumbent in Democratic primary contests, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in New York and Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts last week.
But the effort failed, as the dynamic of majority-minority House districts seeking black or Hispanic members to represent them did not replicate itself in a Senate race in a 65 percent white state.
Ms. Harris’s dream of becoming the state’s first black, first female, and first LGBT senator were dashed an hour after polls closed at 8 p.m. With 90 percent of the precincts counted, Mr. Carper held a 64 percent to 36 percent lead over Ms. Harris.
He will be favored in November for a fourth term, when he faces off against Robert Arlett, the Sussex County councilman who won the GOP nomination Thursday.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Carper said he wasn’t taking the race for granted in his re-election bid.
The 71-year-old campaigned across the state and invested $2.2 million on his re-election push — vastly more than the $58,000 the Harris campaign spent.
The race was the last best chance for the left wing of the party to take down a sitting Democratic senator.
Liberal activist groups — including Justice Democrats, Democracy For America, and Our Revolution — rallied behind Ms. Harris, who ran on a Bernie Sanders-inspired platform, supporting “Medicare for All,” raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and forgiving student loan debt.
She also warned that Mr. Carper had become too cozy with big banks and pharmaceutical companies and said his legislative record showed he had lost touch with his constituents.
But Mr. Carper’s deep ties to the state proved to be too much for his rival. He had the backing of the Delaware Democratic Party, the Delaware AFL-CIO, Delaware Laborers, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
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