Thanks to the 2010 census, Sussex County has gotten a new state senatorial district, the sixth. It will encompass Milton, Lewes, Rehoboth, and Dewey Beach.
Since this is a new district there will be no incumbent. The Democrats already have a candidate, Andrew “Andy” Staton, a Rehoboth real estate agent.
On the Republican side there is already two people who have announced their intentions to run for the seat. And possibly a third.
I think that most of the regular readers know how I feel about primaries. But for any new readers let me state my views again. Primaries are a good thing for the system. Primaries can flush the system of career politicians. A primary can send a message to leadership about the mood of the rank and file voters. The primary is the chance for the voters to decide between multiple candidates from the same party, a chance to decide the direction of the party. A chance to decide what will and will not be an issue in the election. The key to the primary process, is to not allow the primary to do so much damage, that the wounds that are inherent in the process cannot be healed.
This means that those involved in the primary, both the candidates and their supporters, must attempt to keep the debate about issues that are important to the voters. To not allow the debate to disintegrate into name calling and personal attacks.
Unfortunately it may already be too late to avoid that in the race for the sixth.
On Wednesday afternoon I tuned into the Bill Colley show on WGMD, only to hear the host Bill Colley launching into a tirade against one of the announced Republican candidates, Ernie Lopez. But Mr. Colley didn’t limit his ire to just Mr. Lopez, he also had much to say about the four people who had just that day endorsed Mr. Lopez for the sixth district race.
The four included, David Burris, Phyllis Byrne, Ron Sams and former Judge William Lee, all four former Sussex County Executive Committee Chairs.
It seems as if Mr. Colley and others feel that Mr. Lopez is someones boy. In his description of Mr. Lopez and the four former Chairs Mr. Colley accused them of some sort of up state conspiracy. He also accused former U.S. House of Representatives candidate Michele Rollins of pulling strings to see that Mr. Lopez was the GOP candidate for the sixth.
In his monologue Mr. Colley stated that before announcing his intentions to run, Mr. Lopez had failed to discuss it with the current Sussex County GOP Executive Committee Chairman. Mr. Colley also pointed out that this grand conspiracy was intended as payback for Mr. Lopez’s supposed GOP opponent and the former opponent of Michele Rollins, Glen Urquhart. It just so happens that Mr. Urquhart is also the current Sussex County GOP Executive Committee Chairman, a fact that Mr. Colley seemed to forget or to ignore in his fervor to insert the term RINO into the conversation. Let me also add that an hour later Mr. Urquhart made what has become a weekly appearance on the Bill Colley Show, acting as the GOP County Chairman, but sounding like a candidate.
When I sat down to write this post my original intention was to again address the issue of having an announced candidate acting as a county chairman. I think however that the conflict of interest that this represents is fairly clear. Also Mr. Urquhart did announce his intentions to resign the position in January 2012. He made this announcement at the last GOP meeting this pasty Monday night, which was the annual GOP Christmas celebration. Shortly after the announcement I was approached by Urquhart supporters with clip boards asking me to sign, “I support Glen Urquhart” sheets. Not really sure what the purpose of these were, but it felt a little too orchestrated for me, especially at what was supposed to be a non-business get together.
I have changed my mind on the direction of this post however, I will now attempt to make it a post about the race for the sixth district. Since Mr. Urquhart is fairly well-known due to his previous campaign for the U.S. House, this post will focus more on Mr. Lopez. I am sure I will have plenty to write about Mr. Urquhart in the future. I will say that along with being a former candidate for the House, Mr. Urquhart is also a very successful business man and land developer and a former Reagan appointee. GOP voters in Delaware and Sussex County are quite familiar with Mr. Urquhart.
Ernie Lopez on the other hand may be more of an unknown quantity. So for this post I will try to give you an insight into who Mr. Lopez is, though I have had little contact with him myself. I did have a phone conversation with him last night. I found him to be open to any line of questioning.
He is a husband and the father of two daughters, and I get the sense that family is very important to him. He and his family have lived in Sussex since 2006, and he is currently employed at the University Of Delaware as a 4-H extension specialist in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware, this is something I will address later. But let me say that in talking with Mr. Lopez I discovered that his job involves working with high risk children, children who are facing things that we all pray that we and our families never have to face.
On the issues, Mr. Lopez of course understands that jobs and the state economy are issue number one. Of course this is the low hanging fruit for candidates this year. But when asked what he saw as also being important issues he did not hesitate in saying that public safety is an important goal for him. He pointed out that we as a society need to protect the most vulnerable among us, that being children and the elderly. He pointed out that in Lewes which is in the new sixth district we recently saw what happens when the mechanisms that are intended to protect children fail, of course he was talking about the Earl Bradley case. He feels that his experience working with high risk children and their parents would enable him to go to Dover and to work to ensure that the system works better to protect families from that sort of abuse.
He said that along with jobs and public safety, that transportation and education are the top four issues facing Delaware and the sixth district.
He also stated that he is pro-life, pro second Amendment and that he would oppose any expansion of gambling and casinos. He feels that government must be more accountable to the people and that we must reform the waste and redundancy inherent in big government.
Now before I address what will no doubt be a big issue in the primary and possibly the general election if he is successful, let me address another accusation made by some. The question of whether or not he contacted the GOP Chairman before announcing. Mr. Lopez stated to me that no, he did not contact Chairman Urquhart (also candidate Urquhart), but that he had contacted Vice Chairman John Riley shortly before announcing, to seek advice. He stated that he had a certain comfort level with Mr. Riley that he didn’t have with Chairman Urquhart (can’t imagine why?).
Now to the issue of Mr. Lopez’s job at the U of D. Some, including Bill Colley, are saying that if elected Mr. Lopez will be another in a long line of double dippers. Let me state for consistency that I am opposed to elected officials receiving state jobs after being elected. In this case however Mr. Lopez already has his job with the U of D and it will be up to the voters of the sixth district to decide whether there is a conflict of interest or not. I think that it is right and good for this to be a topic of discussion so that the voters can decide based on facts, not simple accusations.
In our phone conversation Mr. Lopez pointed out that his check is not signed by Gov. Markell, that he is an employee of the U of D. That he is not eligible for a state pension. He stated that if elected, he would not seek a promotion and that he would recuse himself from any votes concerning his job. Recusing, I must admit, is another thing that bothers me, I don’t like that people are left without representation on key issues, but again the voters of the sixth will decide.
Mr.Lopez also pointed out that he felt that it was a dangerous precedent to tell someone they couldn’t run for elected office based on where they work.
After my conversation with Mr. Lopez I came away feeling that he is a plausible candidate. And while I am sure that many like Bill Colley and supporters of Mr. Urquhart and possibly Mr. Urquhart himself, will level the call of RINO at Mr. Lopez, I am not sure how you can call a person who is so evidently pro-family, pro-life, pro-second amendment, someone who is seeking more government accountability, someone who is dedicated to public safety and law enforcement a RINO.
I would hope that we can allow the primary process to play out for the good of the rank and file voters and to avoid the nasty personal attacks that so often populate this type of race. We shall see.