Republican official: Democratic voters key to Sussex Republican victories

December 18, 2012

For Cape Region Republicans, 2012 was a good year. Statewide, not so much. As Duke Brooks, communications director for Sussex Republican Party, put it, Sussex County had two new seats - the Sixth Senate and the 20th Representative - and Republicans “won both right out of the box.”

Ernie Lopez routed Andy Staton for the Senate seat and Steve Smyk defeated Marie Mayor in the House contest.

Brooks, a longtime radio broadcaster who lives in Lewes, is new to his political job but not to conservatism. At Syracuse University in the ’70s, “I was about the only conservative I knew,” he said.

He has a friend from those days, he said, who literally carried around a book filled with the sayings of Chairman Mao. Today, Brooks said, that man is a conservative. “Every time I talk to him, he says, ‘Duke, you were right. I was wrong.’”

According to Brooks, that kind of conservatism runs deep in Sussex and it’s the reason for Lopez's and Smyk’s victories.

“Sussex County for a long time has had conservative leanings,” Brooks said. And not just among Republicans.

“A person can be a Democrat and they can also have a conservative frame of mind,” he said. These Democrats, he said, will vote for Republicans who “reflect the personal values of those voters.”

As for Staton, he said, “It may be that a lot of people saw Andy as something like a single-issue candidate, and that issue may have been same-sex marriage.”

If true, it’s a little odd. Even Brooks admitted he never heard Staton say anything about same-sex marriage.

I heard Staton speak a couple of times and received quite a few mailings at home, and the issue never surfaced.

What I heard and saw from Staton was jobs, healthcare and transportation. If Staton lost because of the same-sex marriage issue, it says more about the electorate than it does about the candidate.

Brooks sees a similar dynamic at work in the Smyk-Mayor contest. Smyk, a longtime Sussex resident, served as a state trooper and his “commitment to Sussex County and his commitment to the state of Delaware is beyond question.”

Mayor, he said, may have been viewed as a “carpetbagger” who would import “Washington, D.C. values.” (Mayor moved here about 12 years ago from Maryland, after working in education for 30 years.)

Brooks said Mayor was bright, hardworking and good with people, but her weakness was that she “represented some liberal values that are simply not widely held in Sussex County.”

I asked Brooks if the state Republican Party had anything to learn from the successful Sussex branch.

He was modest about claiming too much credit for their efforts here. “As you get farther north, you get more and more Democrats,” he said, with New Castle County, especially Wilmington, overwhelmingly Democratic.

Interestingly enough, even in Sussex, there are more Democrats than Republicans: 53,765 Democrats vs. 52,006 Republicans. But it’s still a strong conservative tide.

I plan to get back to more of Brooks’ comments in a future column.

Is this time different?

We’ve had many mass shootings in the United States - an incredibly tragic example of American exceptionalism - but the deaths in Newtown, Conn., seem to have shaken this country in a way the others did not.

Twelve people were shot to death earlier this year in a Colorado movie theater; six were murdered in 2011 in the Rep. Gabrielle Gifford attack; 32 were massacred in 2007 at Virginia Tech.

Yet none of these incidents sparked any serious talk about gun control.

The Newtown murders appear to have struck deeper. Maybe that’s what it takes to get the attention of violence-jaded Americans: 20 dead first-graders.

And the six adults who may well have died trying to save their students.

Among those outraged is Diane Stalker of Lewes. On Saturday, she sent around a link to a petition at The petition doesn’t call for specific action; it demands an answer to the question: Is there anything that could have protected these children and adults from a murderer’s actions?

That seems the correct approach. Quickly passing a law might make people feel better, but it may or may not address the problem.

For Stalker, the issue isn’t new. At the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, Stalker lived in Virginia, where her daughter attended high school.

A graduate of that school was among the victims at Virginia Tech.

She’s signed petitions before, but this one feels different. Quoting Sen. Charles Schumer, she says, “This may be the tipping point.”

“I posted the link to sign the petition on my FB (Facebook), as many others have; hopefully it will go viral,” Stalker said. “Sign the petition, email to your friends and colleagues!”

  • Accomplished writers appear 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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