The entire Senate took the oath of office Dec. 5, on the Senate floor of Legislative Hall. Four Sussex County Republican senators were among the body. Newly elected senators Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, and Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, joined Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, who previously served in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, a leader in the Senate, was sworn in by telephone from his home, where he is recovering from triple-bypass heart surgery. According to a press release, Simpson said he is doing well and looks forward to the start of the legislative session, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Members of the Senate are typically sworn in individually on the first day of the new legislative session. This year, swearing in of all 21 senators was necessary because of a special session called by the governor to consider several judicial nominees and because of the redistricting process, which occurs once every 10 years.
According to a press release, it was believed to be the first time in the state’s history that the Delaware Senate was sworn in as a body.
Lopez also made history as the first Hispanic elected and sworn in to the Delaware Senate. “It feels terrific. It’s a very humbling feeling,” said Lopez, who was born in Puerto Rico. “And today was also particularly special because I’ve always respected and admired the judiciary, and to have one of my first duties be part of the judicial process was very meaningful for me.”
Simpson’s 18th District includes Milford, Harrington, Farmington, Greenwood, Lincoln, Ellendale and Houston. Simpson, who was also elected by Senate Republicans to serve a third term as minority leader, was first elected to the Senate in 1998.
“Every time I come to Legislative Hall – and this may sound a little corny – but I think about how privileged I am to be able to walk up those steps as a Delaware senator,” he said. “It is a rare honor.”
Pettyjohn’s 19th District includes Georgetown, Bridgeville, Seaford, Millsboro, Greenwood and Long Neck. “I’m honored to have the privilege to serve the residents of the 19th District,” he said.
Hocker’s 20th District includes Fenwick Island, Selbyville, Bethany Beach and Ocean View. The coming session will be Hocker’s first term in the Delaware Senate after 10 years in the House of Representatives, where he most recently served as minority whip. “It feels great. I’m excited about the new make-up of the Senate,” Hocker said.
Lopez, Simpson, Pettyjohn and Hocker said they would focus on improving Delaware’s economy and creating jobs during the 147th General Assembly.
A ceremonial swearing-in, during which senators are accompanied by family, is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Legislative Hall.