Voters will have a real choice in Sixth Senate Republican primary

May 8, 2012

People sometimes complain that Election Day is matter of voting for Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

That won’t be the case for Sixth Senate District Republicans on Sept. 11. That’s the day primary voters will decide whether Ernesto Lopez or Glen Urquhart will be their candidate in the general election.

(Democratic voters will also be going to the polls that day, deciding among Andy Staton, Bob Frederick or Mike Miller.)

Yes, both candidates emphasize faith and family. And yes, both candidates promise to cut regulation. You could hardly be called Republican if you didn’t.

But the candidates’ respective ages and experiences make their approaches and potential appeal very different.

Lopez and Urquhart recently squared off at a meeting of the Sussex County Republican Women’s Club held at Baywood Greens Clubhouse in Long Neck. It was friendly of course. Lopez even began his talk by welcoming Urquhart and his wife, but there are the makings for a tough and bitter battle, especially since Urquhart resigned his seat as county chair to primary Lopez.

A generational battle
Lopez is 35, with a wife, Janis, and two daughters, ages 2 and 4. He is a counselor at the University of Delaware.

Urquhart is 63, with a wife, Angela, and five grown children and 15 grandchildren. He is a retired businessman.

Their respective pitches lean heavily on those few biographical facts. Lopez alluded to his relative youth. “Our election is about the future of our party,” he said. “It’s about the future of our state. It’s not about the past.”

He made the point he would be among the few legislators with school-age children.

“As someone who will continue to have a child in Delaware public school, I want to make sure we have the best,” he said.

Urquhart, for his part, highlighted the advantages of an older outlook.

“Having lived 63 years through many different life experiences,” Urquhart began, “Angela and I have faced many of the same issues.”

He mentioned cutting personal budgets, working second jobs, raising a child with learning disabilities, getting five children through college, nursing elderly parents and, finally, “end-of-life issues.”

Urquhart hammered home the point that, as a retiree, he will work full-time for his constituents. “Being retired, I will be your fulltime senator, without any competing interests. You will be my only boss.”

Lopez countered that Delaware has a tradition of  part-time legislators. “About 75 percent of the members of the General Assembly have other jobs,” he said.

During the question-and -answer period, the question of having the time to serve came up again, prompting a response from Lopez that dwelled not only on his own candidacy but on the future of the Republican Party in Delaware, which despite the high-flying speechifying at the recent state convention remains a deep concern among the party faithful.

For good reason. Delaware government is wholly dominated by Democrats.

“In Delaware, historically, our representation comes from the ground up,” Lopez said. “It’s teachers, it’s nurses, it’s doctors, it’s business owners.

“I never want to be part of a political party, especially considering where we are now as a state Republican Party, that tells a young school nurse that they can’t run for office because of the other job that they have.”

Their respective work experience promises to be another point of contention.

Here’s how Urquhart emphasized both his business background and his opponent’s lack of one. To spur job creation, Urquhart said, business people “must really believe in their heart of hearts that this is a great place to invest. They want someone who has walked in their shoes, as a fellow at-risk employer, as I have,” he said. “Someone who’s met a payroll.”

In other words, not someone in education, like Lopez.

But Lopez, a counselor for ages 5 through 19, spoke proudly of his work with children. “I spend a lot of time in my office meeting with children and families. I feel blessed and thankful that I work for an organization that dedicates its time to improving the life skills of our children,” he said, emphasizing he understands the concerns of parents.

Voters can expect these themes to be repeated throughout the summer.

Odds and ends …
Rebecca Stancliff announced at the Sussex County Republican Women’s Club meeting that the group had sent five cases of Girl Scout cookies to troops overseas … Elaine Frey, dressed in red, white and blue, delivered a very spirited presentation of “That Ragged Old Flag,” a patriotic poem … The Sussex County Republican Women’s Club is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

  • 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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