"I'm running for reelection to the United States Senate so I can keep fighting for Delaware," said Senator Chris Coons. "In the 10 years I've been a U.S. Senator, I've been ranked as one of the most productive and effective and bipartisan senators. I am a Democrat, and I fight for Democratic Party principles, but I am also willing to reach across the aisle in order to get things done."
Incumbent Coons, who's held his seat since leaving his New Castle County Executive position during a special election for the seat in 2010 and won his first full term in 2014, will face Jessica Scarane on Tuesday during Delaware's statewide primary.
Coons carries some advantage in the relationships he's strengthened in his years of service as a senator and leans heavily on the reputation he's built as someone who can get things done across the aisle. He said constituents are looking for someone that can get things done, regardless of party.
"I think most Delawareans are looking for representation that is principled, but also pragmatic, that is able to deliver meaningful results," he said. "I am civil. I am respectful of folks of different backgrounds and different views. But I am a strong Democrat, and so my hope, my expectation is that in the primary we'll see the overwhelming majority of Democrats come out and vote for folks like me, who work hard, who listen to all sides, but who also stand firm for Democratic Party principles."
He said working together--when we must--is the only thing that will lead to improvements anywhere, locally, statewide, and nationally.
"That is the right path forward for our recovery from this pandemic; for having any hope of stabilizing and securing access to affordable and quality healthcare; for rebuilding our economy and getting businesses open and creating more opportunity for folks; and for addressing and mending the racial divides and inequality in our country," Coons said. "I've worked tirelessly to help elect Joe Biden [as] the next president of the United States, and if we have a chance at a majority in the Senate and at a new president in the White House, I'll continue to work on the issues that have been my focus for the last term, and you will see me continue to fight for all Delawareans."
That campaigning for Biden has fostered much of the conversation and speculation around the possibility that Coons could be tapped for a position directly within the Biden-Harris administration, but Coons said for the time being, he's focused on providing the same service he's always provided to the First State on the federal level.
"My folks have delivered excellent constituent services. Anyone who calls my office gets an answer, gets a response, gets help. We can't fix everyone's problems, but in terms of addressing, interacting with the federal government, with Medicare or Medicaid, veterans issues, Social Security, I work tirelessly to answer the calls of Delawareans of all backgrounds from all counties," Coons said. "I do think we've got urgent crises we need to address: the pandemic, reopening the economy, reducing the price of prescription drugs, improving the cost and quality of health care, addressing gun violence by improving background checks, tackling climate change--and I've got bills or caucuses I'm active in, that are bipartisan, that are offering enact-able solutions to each of those challenges."
He did note his work with the Biden-Harris campaign provides a leg up for Delaware should Democrats win the White House in 2020. He pointed to his positioning with seniority on the Appropriations Committee and his leadership roles on the Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Committee--as evidence of the trust he's built working with caucus leadership and bipartisanship to produce or pass dozens of pieces of legislation--as benefits exclusive to his own candidacy.
"If there is a Democratic majority and a new Democratic president, I have worked tirelessly for Joe Biden in the presidential primaries and look forward to a close working relationship should there be a Biden-Harris administration," Coons said. "I don't think my primary opponent could say any of those things, or would have any of those opportunities to fight for Delaware, if elected."
After getting his start on county council in the 2000 election, Coons became president of the council before he eventually rose to the position of County Executive for six years, ultimately jumping to the U.S. Senate.
"When you become a senator, the scope and reach of our federal government, serving on the Foreign Relations Committee and seeing the ways in which our country engages with the rest of the world; being on the Judiciary Committee and being actively engaged in issues from immigration to gun violence to intellectual property--which is about protecting inventions and innovators--to now being on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, one of the ways I've grown is that I've learned how to deal with and engage with a very broad range of Americans from all different states and backgrounds, and then to effectively advocate for Delaware's interests."
Despite the broader spectrum of concerns, Coons said he's been able to stick with issues that are closer to home, things like financing for low-income Delawareans from credit unions and community development financial institutions or spending the last few years making investments in telehealth and telemedicine.
But he also noted getting things done in a Republican-led Senate under a Trump administration presents its own challenges.
"If the Senate remains Republican and Donald Trump remains the president, my working relationship with Senator [Marco] Rubio of Florida will allow me to continue advancing proposals in the small business community and relief for small business owners and nonprofits," Coons said. "If Donald Trump continues to be the president, my strong relationships in my own caucus will give me the chance to advance things like climate solutions and immigration reform. But, frankly, he would be a barrier to signing any of those into law, unless he changed his positions on those issues. I'm a Democrat--the chances for a Democrat to make a big difference for Delaware increase dramatically if there's a Democratic president. If it happens to be a president with whom you have a good and long-working relationship, those chances go up even further."
Coons praised the response from County Executive Matt Meyer, Governor John Carney, and the entire Delaware Division of Public Health for their collaborative response to the pandemic and said the state and governor have done a "great job," in spite of uneven assistance from an administration he said squandered too much time "mocking" the pandemic instead of scientifically addressing it.
"Nationally, I think we have a flawed federal response that has been badly uneven. President Trump spent months mocking the idea of having to wear masks and saying that this was not much worse than the flu and it would magically go away in the summer, none of which was true. He also spent time proposing a treatment, hydroxychloroquine, which has ultimately medically proven to be of no benefit and in many cases harmful," Coons said. "President Trump should have simply listened to the public health experts [and] let them lead the public health response."
Biden has a plan for coordinated response and rapid recovery, Coons said, and he's confident Biden's leadership would lead to the United States catching up to the recoveries of other developed countries around the world, instead of leading with the highest number of fatalities worldwide. The pandemic remained one of Coons's primary concerns.
"We have to get this pandemic before anything else. Coming up with a fair, clear plan for the distribution of the vaccine we have invested billions of dollars in developing--I am optimistic there will be a safe and effective vaccine by the first quarter of next year. If that happens, we can then turn to rebuilding our economy, making it fair, building back better, investing in infrastructure, helping businesses large and small rehire people. But, frankly, if we can't get through this pandemic, everything else falls to the wayside. I'm committed to addressing racial inequality and some of the injustice issues, access to health care and education and opportunity, but if we don't get through the pandemic with a coordinated federal plan first, nothing else is going to matter."