The field of candidates vying to become Delaware’s next attorney general has been set, after former Sussex County chief prosecutor Peggy Marshall Thomas this week filed as the only Republican seeking the post.
Thomas, who served in the Department of Justice for three decades, officially entered the race on Monday, one day ahead of the state filing deadline. Unopposed on the Republican side, she joins a crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed Matt Denn, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election in November.
“I will bring decades of experience as a prosecutor and law enforcement professional to the attorney general’s job. I will be a force for positive change and always put justice ahead of politics,” Thomas said in announcing her candidacy.
Delaware Republican Party chairman Mike Harrington Sr. said Thomas emerged from a pool of at least 12 attorneys who expressed interest in the Republican nomination for the office, which Republicans haven’t held since 2005.
About three months ago, Harrington directed state Committeeman Laird Stabler to form a “statewide coalition” of attorneys to choose the party’s nominee for attorney general. The group, Harrington said, met weekly to conduct interviews with candidates from all over the state.
“We interviewed a number of interested parties, and we narrowed it down to Peggy,” Harrington said.
“I think she’s going to be a darn hard campaigner.”
Republicans are hoping in November to loosen the stranglehold that Democrats currently have on state politics, which includes control of the governor’s office, the General Assembly and the Office of the Attorney General.
However, Thomas will first have to beat the winner of a four-way Democratic primary that features Kathy Jennings, a former prosecutor and chief deputy attorney general at the DOJ, and LaKresha Roberts, who served in the same role under Denn.
Tim Mullaney, a former U.S. marshal and DOJ chief of staff, and Gov. John Carney’s former deputy legal counsel, Chris Johnson, are also running in the most crowded statewide race on September’s primary ballot.
Among Republicans, only Thomas S. Neuberger had publicly stated an intention to run, but the Wilmington-based attorney withdrew his name in late October.
Harrington said a Democratic primary fight would expose divisions within the party and likely bruise whichever candidate emerges as the nominee on Sept. 9. Meanwhile, the absence of a Republican primary challenge would allow Thomas to hone her message and begin campaigning in earnest.
The party is currently in the process of lining up fundraisers to support the nominee, he said.
Thomas’ platform includes cracking down on the opioid crisis that has gripped the state in recent years, and she opposes a top-down rewrite of the state’s Criminal Code, which is backed by Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. as well as some Democratic lawmakers in Dover.
A former part-time attorney for the Delaware House of Representatives, she also crafted a bill to reinstate the death penalty for murder, after the state Supreme Court last year struck down Delaware’s capital sentencing scheme as unconstitutional. The bill did not clear the General Assembly this year.
Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady was the last Republican and only woman to serve as attorney general, a post she held from 1995 to 2005.