Tuesday night was an interesting one for Delaware politics, as there were a few upsets in the state and county elections this week.
“I applaud all of the candidates who worked hard during the 2014 campaign to offer their vision for our state’s future. It’s never easy to put one’s name on the ballot and be subject to everything that comes with seeking a public office, and everyone who does so plays an important role in our political process,” said Gov. Jack Markell in a statement Tuesday night.
“I congratulate all of the incoming members of the 148th General Assembly, as well as the winners of our statewide races.”
On the local level, Sussex County Council District 5 will now be represented by Republican Rob Arlett, who received 6,849 votes to Democrat and current Sussex County Planning and Zoning Chairman Robert Wheatley’s 4,502. The term is for four years.
“I want to thank my family, the volunteers and supporters,” said Arlett. “I look forward to serving all the residents of District 5. I’m very humbled and very excited about moving forward and bringing a positive attitude and energy to make a positive difference. We’re very, very excited about the opportunity.”
Wheatley was reflective and gracious in defeat.
“I think we were caught up in a Republican wave. I was in pretty good company here,” said Wheatley, noting the loss of incumbents State Sen. Robert Venables, Sr., who chaired the Capital Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. John Atkins, who chaired the House Agriculture Committee.
“We missed an opportunity to put someone on county council that actually knows something about land use,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that happens in politics and elections, that there was just a wave of voter dissatisfaction.
“I’ll carry on and continue my post in Planning and Zoning. l’m looking forward to working with Mr. Arlett and the rest of county council as I have done for the last 20 years.”
Republican Richard Collins will serve as the State Representative for District 41 with 3,189 votes, beating out Democratic incumbent John Atkins, who received 2,919. The term is for two years.
“I want to thank John Atkins for a very clean campaign. I want to say that he certainly had a deserved reputation for constituent service. I have big shoes to fill in that area, and fully intend to get out there... I will try to take care of people as well as he did,” said Collins.
Atkins took to his Facebook page Wednesday morning to thank his constituents for their support throughout the campaign.
“I want to personally thank each and every one of you for supporting me for the past [six] elections. Together, we accomplished a lot,” he wrote.
Atkins also wrote that even though the loss was painful, he wishes Collins the best in serving District 41.
“So let me first start by saying it hurts. I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that.
“We did all that we could... but in the end, we lost... I feel that we have set the standard for one on one constituent service and I congratulate Representative Collins and wish him the best. I really mean that... It has been the high light of my life the past 12 years to call you my constituents.”
Collins said that he hopes to start a dialog regarding government reform when he gets to the State Legislature.
“Particularly in regards to regulations and bringing the power to create regulations back to elected officials, so that the voters can throw us out if we do the wrong thing,” he said, adding that tax reform is something he would like to address, as well.
“Many of the tax increases over the last few years are causing serious harm to the economy and are now resulting in revenue decreases,” said Collins.
Over the next two years, Collins said he hopes to be known as a representative who brings about transparency in government.
“I believe people need to know what goes on in their government, why it happens, and the background deals need to stop. That’s what I’m going to go to Dover to try to accomplish.”
Collins said he celebrated the victory at the Indian River Senior Center in Millsboro with Sussex County Councilman George Cole, another winner Tuesday night, and Arlett, as well as State Rep. Ronald Gray and State Sen. Gerald Hocker.
“It was a great night, a lot of fun, and a lot of excitement watching the returns come in,” he said. Adding, “I want to thank the voters, thank all the campaign workers who came out and worked tirelessly for me. I want to thank my family and I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity. I hope to live up to the highest expectations.”
Sussex County Council District 4 will continue to be represented by the Republican incumbent, Cole, who received 8,670 votes, while Democratic challenger Shirley Price received 6,764. The term is for four years.
“I thought it was going to be a close race. Shirley Price was much better organized than I was. I had a lot of people working the polls... I tried to run on my record, which after 28 years you have an extensive record,” Cole said Wednesday morning.
“It was obviously a disappointment,” said Price. “While I was not succesful in winning this seat, I think I was very succesful in bringing to the forefront important issues.”
During his campaign, Cole said he tried to emphasize his judgment while serving as county councilman.
“Over the years I’ve shown good judgment when it comes to fiscal matters and land-use decisions that have been facing the county,” he said. “It’s easy to point the finger with all these problems with infrastructure. I agree we have a lot of problems. There’s an awkward relationship between the State and the County when it comes to infrastructure. We need to work together to solve some of these problems. It’s not easy. If it was, there would be a lot more successes.”
Cole said he looks forward to continuing to work for the people of Sussex County, specifically stating he hopes to target issues through a carrying capacity study, which the County has discussed in recent weeks.
“Hopefully we will target some of the troubled areas — the areas with the most congestion or most infrastructure issues. We’ll do a study to see what is the carrying capacity of those areas and are they maxed out?” he said, adding he believes the idea was well received by the other council members and will be discussed further in January after Arlett joins the dais.
“It’ll also be interesting to have Mr. Arlett at the table to find out what he feels are some of the issues he thought were important and helped get him elected.”
Cole thanked his family and the voters for their support throughout the campaign.
“I appreciate the support of the voters again in the 4th councilmatic district. It’s a pretty big district, it’s a pretty diverse district... There are a lot of small communities with some differences. It all came together and I got the support of most of the area. I appreciate it — I thank them very much.”
Republican Robert T. Lee appears to have secured the position of Sussex County Sheriff, having received 32,506 votes, while Democratic opponent R. Beau Gooch received 20,702. Republican incumbent Jeff Christopher, who lost September’s primary, ran as a write-in candidate, however the votes have yet to be tallied. The term is for four years.
Other unofficial election results include:
• Democratic incumbent Chris Coons has won the U.S. Senate seat with 55.8 percent of the vote. He will serve a six-year term.
• Democratic incumbent John Carney Jr. won the Representative in Congress seat with 59.3 percent of the vote. He will serve a two-year term.
• Current Lieutenant Governor and Democrat Matt Denn won Attorney General with 52.8 percent of the vote. He will serve a four-year term.
• Republican Kenneth Simpler won the State Treasurer seat with 53.6 percent of the vote. He will serve a four-year term.
• Republican incumbent R. Thomas Wagner won the Auditor of Accounts seat with 54.2 percent of the vote. He will serve a four-year term.
• Republican Cynthia Green won Sussex County Council Register of Wills. Green received 36,435 votes, while Democrat Gregory Fuller Sr. received 23,145. She will serve four-year term.
• Republican incumbent Scott Morrow Dailey has won the seat of Sussex County Recorder of Deeds. Dailey received 35,165 votes, while Democratic challenger Alma Roach received 24,123. He will serve a four-year term.
As has been a Sussex County tradition for over a century, elected officials and their challengers were scheduled to meet in Georgetown on Thursday to celebrate Return Day. They are scheduled to take office in early January 2015.
“One of the special parts about governing in our state is the tradition of leaders from across the political spectrum burying the hatchet after hard fought campaigns, no matter the results,” said Markell. “I am excited about what we can accomplish together in the months ahead to continue to create jobs and grow the economy, while strengthening the quality of life in our state now and for generations to come. We have much work to do for the people we represent and I look forward to addressing the issues that are most important to them in the upcoming legislative session.”