Republicans rule in Sussex County; Democrats rule the state

November 26, 2012

The recent election once again proved that it's hard for a Democrat to win in Sussex County, but maybe not as hard as in the past. Republicans dominated political action in the Sussex 2012 election, but Democrats still have a stranglehold on the political landscape in Delaware.

Starting at the top, Sussex Countians voted for Republican Mitt Romney over President Barrack Obama by nearly 12,000 votes. They also voted for two other Republicans on the losing end in high-profile offices, including Sher Valenzuela for lieutenant governor – won by Matt Denn – and Benjamin Mosley for insurance commissioner – won by Karen Weldin-Stewart.

But, Sussex Countians backed three Democrat incumbents: U.S. Sen. Tom Carper; U.S. Rep. John Carney; and Gov. Jack Markell.

Even two of the Democrat winners in Sussex County were once Republicans. John Brady is the county's new Clerk of the Peace and Democrat incumbent John Atkins defeated Republican Rich Collins by just 69 votes to win re-election in the 41st Representative District. That's the one race that caught everyone off guard because most thought Atkins was a lock to win in a one-sided race.

In state races, the Democrats won 27 House of Representative races while the Republicans won 14; half of those were in Sussex County. The Democrats won 12 of the Senate seats up for grabs while the Republicans won seven, which was a little unexpected. Of the seven, four were won in Sussex County.

Both of the new downstate election districts were won by Sussex Republicans. Republican Ernie Lopez defeated Andy Staton in the 6th Senatorial District and Republican Stephen Smyk defeated Marie Mayor in the 20th Representative District. Smyk won all but two polling places in his race, and Lopez won all but one of the polling places in his district. Sussex Democrats worked hard for both candidates – even pulling in the governor for extra star power – but came up short.

Newcomer Republican Tim Dukes, son of former Sussex County Councilman Dale Dukes, stepped in to retain the 40th Representative District seat for his party after Biff Lee retired.

From my count, of the 14 state Senate and House races contested in Sussex County (or on the border with Kent), Republicans won 12. The only Democrat winners were Atkins in the 41st Representative District and veteran legislator Bob Venables in the 21st Senatorial District.

Even so, Democrats still have a lock on the Delaware General Assembly with Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

There was no change in the makeup of the Sussex County Council. Republicans Mike Vincent and Sam Wilson and Democrat Joan Deaver retained their seats. Republicans have a 4-1 edge on council.

While Republicans have success in Sussex County, the rest of the state is another story. Democrats totally dominate Kent and New Castle counties and hold every major federal and state office. The numbers tell the story. In the presidential race, nearly 252,000 New Castle County residents voted compared to a little over 93,000 voters in Sussex County. Statewide, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 100,000, with nearly as many voters registered “other” as registered Republican.

Here's the dirty little secret that most people are not aware of. Believe it or not, there are a few more thousand Democrats registered in Sussex County than Republicans. There are also about 27,000 voters who are registered as other party. It's safe to assume that most of the “other party” usually vote Republican, and it's also safe to assume that: A. Many Democrats cross party lines and vote for the candidate and not the party; or B. Many Sussex Democrats don't vote.


  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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