DOVER, Delaware — Businessman Kevin Wade won Delaware's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, advancing to an underdog battle against incumbent Democrat Chris Coons in a race unlikely to factor into GOP and Democratic struggles for control of the Senate.
Wade, 62, easily defeated 81-year-old retired engineer Carl Smink in Tuesday's primary, taking more than 75 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting
Wade, who lost a 2012 challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, said he intends to contrast his views with Coons' voting record.
"Sen. Coons votes with Harry Reid 97 percent of the time," said Wade, who lost a U.S. Senate bid to incumbent Democrat Tom Carper two years ago. "I intend to be an independent voice for the people of Delaware."
As with most primary elections in Delaware, only a handful of voters took time to cast ballots. Turnout for Republicans was 14 percent, while only 7 percent of registered Democrats voted.
In the night's most closely watched contest in the state, financial executive Ken Simpler of Newark defeated Milford businesswoman Sher Valenzuela in the Republican primary for state treasurer.
Simpler, a chief financial officer for a Delaware-based hotel management company who previously oversaw a billion-dollar portfolio as a hedge fund executive, had about 54 percent of the vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting.
Simpler advances to a November contest against Democrat Sean Barney, a former political aide to Carper and to Democratic Gov. Jack Markell.
"The one nice thing about this election ... there is not going to be any pivot," Simpler said after his primary victory. "The message is, a finance guy for a finance job."
Simpler has touted his experience in finance as making him the most qualified candidate to handle Delaware's checkbook and its $1.8 billion cash portfolio, winning endorsement from several Republican lawmakers.
Valenzuela was making a second bid for statewide office, having lost a bid for lieutenant governor two years ago.
The treasury seat opened up when incumbent Democrat Chip Flowers withdrew two weeks ago following allegations that he had harassed his former deputy treasurer.
In the only statewide primary for Democrats, Wilmington attorney Brenda Mayrack defeated accountant Ken Matlusky for their party's nomination for state auditor. With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Mayrack had 55 percent of the vote.
Mayrack, a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, advances to take on incumbent Republican Tom Wagner.
Wagner has served as state auditor since 1990. He is the lone Republican holding statewide office in Delaware.
State Republican Party chairman Charlie Copeland said he is confident that Wagner will hold onto his seat, despite voter registration numbers that favor Democrats.
"I think Tom Wagner wins like he has for the past 24 years," Copeland said. "This is going to be a better Republican year than we have had in a long time."