The State of Delaware held primary elections on Tuesday, Sept. 9, in which 40 candidates vied to represent their parties on November’s general election ballot.
Robert Wheatley won the Democratic primary for Sussex County Council District 5 and will be the party’s candidate in the November election. Wheatley received 60.3 percent of the votes, a total of 703, compared to Brad Connor’s 39.7 percent, or 462 votes.
“Certainly I’m delighted with the victory,” said Wheatley on Wednesday morning. “I want to say that my opponent, Brad Connor, has been a friend of mine for 25 years and I’m certain he’ll be a friend for another 25 years. I’m looking forward to working with Brad and his support in the 5th District as we move forward to November.”
Wheatley, who currently serves as the chairman of the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission, gathered with friends and family on Tuesday night at an area restaurant to watch the results come in.
Connor, who currently serves as mayor of the Town of Dagsboro, said that he was pleased with the “good, clean campaign” the two ran.
“There’re no hard feelings,” said Connor on Wednesday of the results. “We’ve just got to keep working. I’ve been in public service for a long time, so I’ll continue doing what I do.”
For the upcoming November election, Connor said he will be supporting Wheatley.
“I’ve known him for many years,” said Connor. “He’s a good man, and I wish him well… It’s not as if the people won’t be taken care of.”
As for his future in politics, Connor said he will continue to serve as mayor and look for other political opportunities.
“Politics has always been something I’ve enjoyed and done well with,” he said. “It’s a learning curve. You teach your kids you don’t always get what you want but it always works out in the end. That’s the way life is. Some other opportunity will come along. Meanwhile, we’ll keep plugging along.”
Wheatley will face off against Republican challenger Rob Arlett, who will run as that party’s candidate, as he received 1,095 votes (55.1 percent of the votes cast), to incumbent Vance Phillips’ 893 votes (44.9 percent).
“It was truly a great day for the voters,” said Arlett. “Yesterday was about a positive message for the people, a vision for the future, hard work and lots of faith, and a little money.”
Arlett said that, as a new face to area politics, there were a few factors working against him.
“Being in the primary as a newcomer, you don’t have those resources as someone who has been in office. We certainly had a lot stacked against us, but what we did have for us was a positive message, a positive attitude, hard work and faith.”
It was due to voters’ readiness for change, Arlett said, that the win came about.
“Since Day 1, I wanted to have a positive campaign and provide an effective message and an alternative to the voter, and it worked.”
During his campaign, Arlett said, he focused on family values and faith. He extended a word of thanks to those who voted in the Republican primary.
“I’ve campaigned on things that were important for me as a person, and I think that’s what connected with the community,” he said. “I want to thank the residents who voted, because their vote does count and they made a difference yesterday. I thank them.”
Arlett said he gathered with friends, family and supporters at his home Tuesday night to watch the results come in.
“Yesterday, I was very much at peace. No matter what the results were, I was very much at peace because of how we ran the campaign and that we were true to my goal of providing a positive message without personal attacks.”
With the general election slated for Nov. 4, Arlett said he plans to continue his vigorous campaign throughout District 5.
“It’s really about eight weeks. That’s all there is. We are going to continue to provide the message and the vision of preserving the past and planning for the future. We look forward to continuing to reach out to more residents of the district and getting to know them personally, allowing them the opportunity to get to know me and trust me to best represent them on council.
“So as we move forward, we’re excited about continuing that message of preserving the past and planning for the future,” he added. “We’ll continue to reach out to the residents of District 5, listening to their concerns and their vision that they have for the district.”
Phillips said he will support Arlett in his ongoing campaign to serve Sussex County Council District 5.
“I think the Democrats on all levels of government are very dangerous for our country and our state,” he said. “I don’t say that about Democrat citizens. I think there’s a huge difference. Once a Democrat gets elected, he or she has pressure from above… I’ve seen it throughout my career. I think the people of the 5th District understand that — even the Democrats.”
In his remaining months on council, Phillips said he will continue to serve the people of District 5 to the best of his ability and will not change how he approaches his position on council.
“I can’t imagine. I’ve been operating based on principles my entire career. I don’t think any political expediency could change the way I govern.”
He added that he hopes to have the County discuss and possibly adopt an Agriculture Industry Zone and does not plan to go overboard when spending his remaining council discretionary funds.
“At our next meeting, I may ask that our staff look at [creating an ag industry zone] and come back with a report. Unless there’s a major objection from somebody, I would hope we could do that,” he said.
“I’m not going to spend all my discretionary money, as some have done in the past after announcing a retirement or losing an election. I think leaving the appropriate amount for the next councilperson is the right thing to do. And I’m not going to make any land-use decisions based on the fat that I’m no longer going to stand for reelection.”
Phillips said that, after a long career in local and state politics, he does see himself running for another political office.
“I’m completely at peace with God’s perfect plan. I look forward to the next chapter of my life,” he said. “Politics can be a very disruptive force in a person’s life. I’ve done it out of a sense of service,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I first filed to run for public office in 1994. I lost the primary race for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1996 election. Then I was successful in 1998.
“Those last 16 years of actual service have been wonderful. The citizens of Sussex County have been great. I have had a great sense of accomplishment through this service to others. I pray I’ll be leaving Sussex County a better place.”
In an exceptionally close race, Sussex County Sheriff challenger Robert T. Lee won the Republican primary, and he will be the party’s candidate in the November election against Democrat Beau Gooch. The Sussex County Department of Elections announced Wednesday afternoon there would be a recount on Thursday morning, after Coastal Point’s press time.
Lee received 5,109 votes (50.1 percent) and incumbent Jeff Christopher received 5,088 votes (49.9 percent), a difference of just 21 votes.
The Republican candidate for U.S. senator is Kevin Wade (75.7 percent), after his win over Carl Smink (24.3 percent).
For Republican State Treasurer candidate Kenneth Simpler (53.9 percent) beat Cheryl Valenzuela (46.1 percent).
The Democratic challenger for State Auditor will be Brenda Mayrack (55 percent) with her win over Kenneth Matlusky (45 percent)
Cynthia Green (56.2 percent) beat Brian Butler (43.8 percent) to be the Republican candidate for Sussex County Register of Wills.
To view the complete results of Tuesday’s Primaries, visit the official page at www.elections.delaware.gov. Voters can ensure they are registered to vote for the upcoming Nov. 4 general election by visiting ivote.de.gov.