Democrat Chris Coons took the stage with a huge crowd of family and campaign supporters at the Doubletree Hotel as a crowd of supporters cheered and waved signs in anticipation of his victory speech.
It was a celebration that culminated a hard fought campaign in which Coons and his campaign staff took nothing for granted against Republican Christine O’Donnell, backed by the Tea Party Express and about $5 million in donations that dwarfed Coons’ war chest.
Coons defeated O’Donnell with 56.6 percent of the vote, 172,590 to 122,237. Independent Party of Delaware candidate Glenn A. Miller and James W. Rash combined for 3.3 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results posted online by the Delaware Department of Elections.
“Today, you set a message that the politics of ‘no,’ the politics of division, have no place in this great state,” Coons said. “Delaware wants, Delaware deserves, not slogans, but solutions to your concerns.”
Jobs and getting the middle class back were among his top priorities upon taking office, he said.
“I pledge to you, to all the working families in Delaware, to get our state and our nation back on track,” Coons said.
One of his major goals once he takes office is: “To make real these six words: made in America, manufactured in Delaware.”
Indeed, jobs are his biggest concern, Coons said. He intends to work across the partisan divide, but it will take some tough decisions to get the economy moving again.
Coons heard the message voters sent a message to him.
“You want us to work hard for you and you want us to make hard choices for you,” Coons said. “People in Delaware know the sacrifices that working families and people in the armed forces serving overseas are making. As you look at Washington, you don‘t see those same sacrifices being made.
“As your next senator, I will do what I have done as county executive. I will not back down from making the hard choices we need to make.”
He would even stand up to his own party if that was what it took to make the right choices for Delaware, he said. It was a reference to GOP criticism of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who called Coons his “pet” during the campaign. In one of his debates, Coons said he had no idea why Reid would call him that because he is nobody’s lapdog.
“When Carney, Carper and Castle take the train everyday to Washington, you know we’ll be working for you,” Coons added. “While we truly have had our differences, I have never questioned whether Ms. O’Donnell and her supporters. . .deeply love this nation.”
With that, he reached out to O’Donnell supporters.
Page 2 of 2 - “Even if I did not win your vote, I hope to have the chance, by working tirelessly for every Delawarean, to earn your respect and your partnership.”
Despite attracting national and international attention and about $5 million in donations nationwide with her Tea Party Expressed-backed candidacy, O’Donnell could not overcome the 110,000 voter advantage Democrats have in the Diamond State. Her message of smaller government, including making the Bush tax cuts permanent so that small businesses would have more money in their pockets to hire people, did not resonate with enough voters. Neither did campaign ads hammering Coons for increasing taxes 54 percent during his six years in office, years that saw the real estate transfer tax dry up.
O’Donnell told hundreds of supporters that her campaign was still a victory in that her supporters changed the electoral process in Delaware forever.
“The Delaware Democratic system will never be the same,” she told a cheering crowd of about 300. “The Republican Party will never be the same. Our voice was heard, and we will never be silenced.”
She had just gotten off the telephone with Coons, she told the crowd during her concession speech. She reminded him to think about small business owners like Victor Rodriguez – a longstanding grocer in the traditional Hispanic enclave of Hilltop in the city of Wilmington’s Westside. Namely, she urged him to not cast a vote for a tax increase that small business owners said would cause some of them to close their doors. And she urged him to fight the death tax that she also said would hurt small business owners.
O’Donnell believes her supporters will continue to be vigilant in keeping a watchful eye on Washington, D.C., which she continually criticized for irresponsible spending that has the nation trillions of dollars in debt to China.
Indeed, O’Donnell’s campaign taught the Republican Party of Delaware – the hard way – that the people pick their candidate, not party bosses, when she upset U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in the September primary.