State Sen. Bryan Townsend announces congressional bid

By The Hill staff , The Hill

Delaware state Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, said Thursday morning he will run for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Delaware faces a significant challenge: rebuilding an economy that works for all Delawareans and that reverses the inequality spreading across America,” Townsend said in an email to supporters. “That’s why our campaign will champion policies that grow and strengthen the middle class, provide every child with an opportunity to succeed, promote equal justice in the criminal justice system, and ensure retirement security for our seniors.”

Townsend, 34, made the announcement a day after U.S. Congressman John Carney, D-Del., said he would run for governor in 2016, ending months of speculation.

Both Townsend and Rep. Bryon Short, D-Highland Woods, expressed interest in Carney’s post if he decided to run for statewide office. Short has yet to announce.

Townsend has made rumblings in the background over the last few weeks about a congressional run. Earlier this month he began hiring for a campaign.

He told The News Journal Thursday morning that Delawareans don’t just want someone with experience, but also “someone with a vision for the future, one that is shared by most Delawareans.”

If elected, Townsend said, he will look to build consensus across party lines on legislation and do everything he can to represent the public by listening first. Those traits, he said, had helped in Dover, and “I believe it will certainly help in Washington.”

On the campaign front, Townsend said will run a grassroots effort as he did before in 2012 and 2014 and plans to start immediately.

“I look forward to a very spirited campaign,” he said.

Townsend, a corporate lawyer at Morris James and member of the Delaware Senate since 2013, is one of the Statehouse’s youngest members. He won his first term in the General Assembly after beating Senate President Pro Tem Tony DeLuca by more than 15 percentage points in a Democratic primary. He easily won the general election against Republican Evan Queitsch that year.

Townsend was re-elected last November after defeating New Castle County Councilman David Tackett in a Democratic primary. He ran unopposed in the November general election.

The primary fight between Townsend and Short is perhaps the most intriguing of all of the races in 2016.

Kelly Bachman, spokeswoman for Gov. Jack Markell, said in an email that the governor has yet to support either Townsend or Short.

“Both Rep. Bryon Short and Sen. Bryan Townsend have proven themselves effective legislators in Dover,” Bachman said. “The governor looks forward to hearing more from both of them.”

Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, said Townsend would do very well in Congress.

“He is someone who gives a lot of thought to the issues and works well with the people in our chamber – and works very hard,” she said. But she added that she hasn’t made a decision yet on who she would endorse.

Rhett Ruggerio, a longtime Delaware Democratic operative and lobbyist in Dover, said Wednesday that Carney’s announcement was the domino effect everyone was waiting for when it came to other races. Ruggerio said both Townsend and Short are well-respected members of the party with similar politics. “They are very similar. It’s hard to make a distinction between the two, to be honest,” Ruggerio said. “I really don’t think you can go wrong with either one.”

The winner of the primary faces Republican Hans Reigle, former Kent County GOP chairman and Wyoming mayor, in the 2016 general election.

Reigle said he was unfamiliar with Townsend.

“I’ve been in the race for the last six months,” he said. “I started against Carney and now it is Townsend.”

Whoever the candidate, Reigle said he would run on a platform that would put Americans back to work, localize education and boost national security.

“The Carney announcement was the domino effect that everyone was expecting,” said Rhett Ruggerio, a longtime Delaware Democratic operative and lobbyist in Dover.

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