Open race for county council

In a surprising move, three incumbent Sussex County councilmen announced this week that they would not seek reelection.

The announcement came on Tuesday, July 22, just prior to their regularly scheduled council meeting in Georgetown.

After Dec. 31, 2008, Councilmen Dale Dukes, Finley Jones and Lynn Rogers, all Democrats, will no longer sit on county council.

Dukes, who has served as council president several times since he was first elected in 1988, said he plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time with his family and wife both in this area and in Florida.

Dukes of Laurel, owner of Dukes Lumber Co., said he is not sure how he will adjust to having more free time, but that he wants to give it a try.

Jones, who has served on the council since 1996, said now is a good time for him to get out so he can spend more time with his wife, who lives in British Columbia, Canada, and his grandchildren throughout the region. Jones is a long-term Greenwood firefighter and owner of a steel company.

Of the three outgoing councilmen, Rogers has possibly the most pressing reason for his retirement. His wife, Linda, was seriously injured in a horse-riding accident in May. Her recovery is going to be a long one and Rogers said he wants to be there for her, as she has been for him.

Rogers owns a sign company in Milton.

Their departures leave only two incumbent councilmen: Vance Phillips and George Cole — both Republicans. One reportedly pro-growth, the other more skeptical.

Who will fill the three empty seats?

So far, the hottest race is in District 3, for Rogers’ seat. This race was all but predestined, as Lewes resident A. Judson Bennett ran against Rogers in 2004, losing by only three votes. Bennett threw his hat back in the ring earlier this year.

Bennett, a Republican, is a former Lewes city councilman and Delaware river pilot.

Also running for District 3 is Democrat Joan Deaver. Deaver has become a familiar name in the region after forming the citizen-action group Citizens for a Better Sussex (CBS).

Deaver, a retired Lewes resident, has been working closely on many local and state battles, including calling for action on the Pollution Control Strategy and working for wind power in the state.

The race in District 1 is not as heated — yet. According to the county elections department, so far, only Republican Mike Vincent of Seaford has filed. Vincent ran against Dukes and lost in 2004.

The situation in District 1 is a bit more difficult, as Dukes has held the seat since 1988 and it was a surprise when he announced he would no longer run.

Vincent serves as a Seaford city councilman and firefighter.

In District 2, three candidates have filed for Jones’ seat, including former Georgetown Mayor Mike Wyatt (a Democrat), former Georgetown Mayor Robert Ricker (a Republican) and Sam Wilson, a Georgetown-area farmer and chairman of the 35th District Republican committee.

The deadline to file for candidacy for the vacant seats is Friday, July 25, at noon.