Business leaders and at least one top Republican are taking issue with the State Chamber of Commerce’s neutrality in Saturday’s special election that will determine control of the Delaware Senate.
A blistering email from Senate minority whip Greg Lavelle to Chamber head Rich Heffron questions recent comments made by Heffron on WDEL radio, suggesting that Republican candidate John Marino has raised as much money as Democrat Stephanie Hansen. Hansen and Democrat PACs have significantly outraised Marino, bringing in nearly a million dollars including hundreds of thousands in out of state contributions. Lavelle labeled Heffron’s words “nothing more than spin from you to distract the public and support the Democrat candidate.”
“You know damn well we have not gotten close to the $1 million they have,” continued Lavelle in the email obtained by TSD. “Not. Even. Close.”
Lavelle’s email also referenced a controversial News Journal editorial by Chamber chair Chip Rossi, which emphasized the “critical” importance of the election for the state’s economic future, but declined to offer a Chamber endorsement for either candidate. The Chamber has historically been seen as the state’s leading advocate for business in the state.
“As disappointing as that position may be to many,” Lavelle said, “those should be your talking points. You all took a pass on this race as an organization so take a pass for God’s sake.”
Business leaders have been scratching their heads over the lack of endorsement in a race the Chamber itself has said is of “statewide impact,” underlying long-simmering frustrations with the organization’s efficacy in Dover.
Describing “the urgency of the moment” and “the importance of a change election if Delaware is to improve its political and economic standing,” Rossi’s editorial said “we find ourselves, year after year, facing budget deficits that underscore a fundamentally broken system and legislative remedies that are too often short-sighted.”
One long-time business leader and former Chamber board member told TSD they were “amazed to read Rossi’s non-endorsement.”
“It really seems to me to be a tacit endorsement of the status quo in Delaware and continuous one party rule,” the individual explained, while pointing to record-breaking fundraising from Democrat interest groups in the race. “Apparently our business community says – ok with us, we’ll just sit this one out!”
Both houses of the Delaware General Assembly, the Governor’s office and all three of the state’s Congressional seats are controlled by Democrats. A win for Marino on Saturday would return control of the state senate to Republicans for the first time in more than forty years.