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Gov. Carney forms committee for Wilmington mayoral run

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Delaware Governor John Carney Wilmington mayor

Gov. John Carney formed a campaign committee for a Wilmington mayoral run, the last step before formally filing for the 2024 race. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – In a step indicating that he is likely to make an unprecedented post-gubernatorial run for mayor of Wilmington, Gov. John Carney formed a new campaign committee earlier this month, according to state records.

The sitting governor formed the Carney for Wilmington campaign committee for a mayoral run on Nov. 1, according to a statement of organization filed with the Office of the Delaware State Commissioner of Elections. That differs from the Friends for John Carney committee that he used in his gubernatorial campaigns.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced Oct. 4 that he will not seek a third term in office come 2024, citing his age at 78 and a desire to spend more time with his family.

Shortly after the mayor’s announcement, Carney confirmed that he was considering an unprecedented run to succeed his friend. Carney is term-limited as governor, as he finishes his second term next year.

In a statement to the Delaware Business Times regarding the new campaign committee, the governor largely mirrored his prior statement on the race, saying, “Tracey and I have lived in Wilmington for 30 years and I care deeply about our city. I am focused on serving as Delaware’s Governor but it is something I’m seriously considering. We have begun that process by forming a committee to explore next steps.”

Notably, Carney has not yet legally filed for the mayoral race to be listed on the Democratic Party primary ballot nor publicly confirmed that he is running, but the committee formation serves as the strongest evidence yet that he plans to do so.

Serving as treasurer on the newly filed campaign is Javier Horstmann, chief policy advisor in the Delaware State Housing Authority, who previously worked in Carney’s congressional and governor’s offices as a policy advisor. He also served as a field organizer for the Delaware Democratic Party in 2016 when Carney won the governorship.

The move from governor to mayor would be a first in Delaware where governors have gone on to be congressmen, senators or federal appointees if they stayed in public service. Examples of governors running for municipal office are exceedingly rare nationwide – in New Jersey, scandal-struck former Gov. Jim McGreevey is reportedly planning to run for Jersey City mayor, while former California Gov. Jerry Brown was elected mayor of Oakland after a long stretch out of the governor’s mansion.

Should Carney decide to formally enter the race for Wilmington mayor, he would likely become the presumptive favorite in the race that currently only has former city treasurer Velda Jones-Potter registered to run.

Unlike prior campaigns, Carney won’t start with a significant financial head start as he reported having less than $62,000 in his gubernatorial campaign war chest at the end of 2022, which could be transferred to a new campaign.

The cost of campaigning in Wilmington would be far lower than a statewide race though, and Carney would be able to call upon many prior donors to support a run. The governor won’t have to make his first campaign finance report for a few months, when year-end 2023 reports would be filed in January.

Meanwhile, Jones-Potter reported having less than $50 in her mayoral campaign fund at the end of 2022.

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