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Monday, March 8, 2021

Delaware Senate leadership changes in wake of election

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Delaware Legislative Hall

Party leadership has changed in the Delaware Senate for both the Democratic and Republican parties as they head into the 151st General Assembly in January.

The Democrats chose Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, to serve as president pro tempore, Sen. Bryan Townsend, D- Newark, for majority leader and Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington, as majority whip. 

Sokola replaces Sen. Danny McBride, D-Bear, who lost his primary. Townsend replaces Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, who remains a senator. And Lockman replaces Townsend. 

The changes must be formalized when the General Assembly begins again in January.

 

When it does convene, the Democrats will have a supermajority in the Senate with 14 Democrats and 7 Republicans,  meaning they have the numbers and power to enact their agendas, no matter what opposition wants.

The General Assembly will start with a swearing in ceremony Jan. 12  at Delaware Technical Community College in Dover. 

“Delaware voters spoke this week in a clear voice that demanded change,” Sokola said in a statement. “The size and record-setting diversity of our caucus reflects the values of our communities and their growing demand for racial justice, higher wages, better schools for our children, common-sense gun reforms and greater access to affordable health care. They also want legislators who will work to protect the public’s health and get our state back to work.” 

“Our caucus enters this new decade with a fresh perspective on the needs of our constituents,” Townsend said. “Over the last two election cycles, Delawareans have chosen legislators who are more reflective of our state’s rich diversity. Great things are happening here in Delaware and it is an honor to help lead the Democratic caucus into the future.” 

“Our state is at a turning point and the trust my colleagues have shown in me to help lead us at this moment is something I take very seriously,” Lockman said. “I look forward to continuing the work we began last year in creating real and meaningful change for people of color in our state, working toward a more equitable public education system and creating economic opportunity for all Delawareans.” 

The Republicans in the Senate kept Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, as minority leader and elected Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, as minority whip. Prettyjohn replaces Sen. Cathy Cloutier, R-Heatherbrooke, who lost in the general election. 

“It’s an honor to serve the great people of the 20th District and to lead this caucus into the 151st General Assembly,” Hocker said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for responsible government, good schools, and well-paying jobs for all Delaware citizens.

“I am excited to build upon the relationships established by the Republican Whips before me,” said Pettyjohn. “The COVID-19 lockdowns have left Delawareans struggling. It is time to tackle this and other important issues that lie before us, and I am ready to do so in this new role. I want to be sure that all voices are heard and discussed throughout our legislative process.”

House leadership remains the same for both parties. For Democrats, Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, continues as speaker and Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, will be majority leader with Rep. John Mitchell Jr., D-Elsmere, as majority whip. For the Republicans, Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford, will be minority leader and Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, will be minority whip.

 

The Senate also will include four new Democratic members next year, including senator-elect Sarah McBride, widely touted as the highest ranking transgender person in America. A 30-year-old former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, she will succeed retired Sen. Harris McDowell, the longest-serving state legislator in Delaware history.

Senator-elect Kyle Evans Gay, an attorney and mother of two, will replace Cloutier in east Brandywine Hundred. Senator-elect Spiros Mantzavinos, a small business owner and father of two, will replace Republican Sen. Anthony Delcollo in Elsmere. Senator-elect Marie Pinkney will replace Sen. Dave McBride in Bear.

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