A vote for Gingrich is a vote for the Delaware primary

April 24, 2012

The Delaware Republican presidential primary is on! Sort of. With Rick Santorum suspending his campaign and the race all but conceded to Mitt Romney, Delaware’s primary lacks the fizz it might have had a few weeks ago.

Which can’t help but disappoint Kenneth McDowell, longtime director of the Sussex County Department of Elections.

“It’s like having a big party and no one shows up,” McDowell said.

But no matter the expected turnout, McDowell and his staff have to be prepared.

That means hiring and training 450 people to work at the 64 polling stations in Sussex County. Most stations are manned by four Democrats and four Republicans, except for a few smaller places where it’s three and three.

Though that’s a big job, it’s not as bad as it sounds. McDowell said he has a list of “really great poll workers,” some of whom have been helping Delaware voters since the Nixon administration.

More than half have worked for 20 years, despite the 14-hour days spent on not particularly comfortable metal chairs.  He has only a 5 to 10 percent turnover each election.

This fall he’ll need more workers because reapportionment – following the 2010 census – will bring nine new districts to Sussex County. That will make a total of 73 polling stations.

To staff those districts he’ll need nine more district inspectors and 100 new poll workers.

The new districts might also affect where Sussex Countians vote, McDowell said. People who have voted at the same place for 30 years may get a notice about a new location for the November elections.

The only candidate to campaign seriously in Delaware is Newt Gingrich, who has appeared in all three counties. He hopes to leverage a good showing in Delaware to – I don’t know – influence the convention, keep Romney conservative, sell more books. Who knows?

But he paid attention to us and we appreciate that. For that, and perhaps no other reason, I hope he does well here. An impressive showing would help persuade future presidential candidates that it’s worthwhile to campaign in Delaware.

In other words, a vote for Gingrich is a vote for the Delaware primary. (There’s a slogan!)

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, and Delaware Republicans have the opportunity to vote for Romney, Gingrich, Ron Paul or Santorum, whose name appears on the ballot despite his having dropped out of the race.

McDowell said early returns will start trickling in by 8:30 p.m. with full statewide results by 9:30. In Sussex he expects to be done by 9.

Obama supporters active

The Sussex County Obama for America chapter has more on its plate than supporting the re-election of the president.

Gordon Rickards, the local chapter’s coordinator, said the group met in Aspen Meadows last Sunday to hear from Mitch Crane, the Lewes resident who is running for insurance commissioner.  About 25 people attended.

According to Rickards, the talk centered on four issues:

• Prohibiting use of credit scores in issuing policies.

• Recruiting new insurance companies to increase consumer choice.

• Rejecting unwarranted rate increases.

• Fighting to keep Blue Cross/Blue Shield and our money in Delaware.

He has to talk to a lot of people if he expects a chance to win. A Democrat, Crane is running against an incumbent from his own party, Karen Weldin Stewart. That’s not how you usually make political friends.

But Crane, a retired Pennsylvania judge who worked with Stewart in the insurance commissioner’s office, said he felt compelled to run because Stewart’s friendliness toward the insurance industry means “the consumer’s needs are not being served.”

It didn’t start out that way, said Crane, who had been hired by former insurance commissioner – and now lieutenant governor – Matt Denn.

“In the beginning of her administration, she was pro consumer,” he said, “and we got some good bills to the Legislature.”

But after six months, according to Crane, Stewart stopped pushing legislation beneficial to the public. Instead, she began catering to the insurance companies.

“I think the party realizes that this incumbent isn’t acting as a Democrat should be acting,” he said.

Crane’s official announcement will be 12:30 p.m. May 10, at the Old State House in Dover. Unlike many candidates he doesn’t plan on official announcements in all three counties, a Delaware political tradition that he doesn’t feel serves much of a purpose.

He does, however, plan to continue making appearances throughout the state, a campaign that has already racked up 28,400 miles on his car.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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