Mayor, newly elected district chair, plans to stay active

March 5, 2013

Following election defeats, some politicians fade away. Some take stock and ponder the future. Some just lie low.

Not Marie Mayor, the Democrat who lost the Nov. 20 Representative District race to Republican Steve Smyk.

Just a few short months after the 2012 election, Mayor is back in politics. She may not be ready to re-enter the election arena, but she wants to help make sure that arena is more receptive to Sussex Democrats.

Sussex used to be more receptive to Democrats than it is now, but that was a very different Democratic Party, a much more conservative one, similar to the Dixiecrats down South.

Mayor wants to help rebuild the party by working locally, identifying issues and reaching out to voters. “Right now I’m interested in strengthening the Democratic Party in the 20th District,” she said. She took a first step in that direction Jan. 31, when she was elected Democratic chair of that district. Mayor replaces Carl Ballato, who announced he would be moving out of the 20th and into the 14th District.

On Feb. 18, 20th District Democrats held an organizational meeting, forming three committees. John Schwanky is the director of the finance committee, with Barbara Vaughan serving as treasurer, Mayor said, and Sharon Harris is director of field operations. A director for policy and media relations has yet to be named.

Regarding policy, however, the Democrats that night passed a resolution supporting Gov. Jack Markell’s gun safety legislation. (Those proposals include: requiring background checks for private firearms sales; requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms; banning sale of large-capacity magazines; banning the sale of military-style weapons; and banning possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a school.)

At the recent DNREC “public engagement session” on sea level-rise held at Cape Henlopen High School, Mayor worked the crowd almost the way she did before the election. Many of those she greeted were election supporters. The session, led by Susan Love of DNREC, attracted more than 100 people on a soggy night - though all that water might have helped focus people’s minds on the issue.

“People were saying all the people came out because it was raining,” Mayor said.

Democrats, she said, need to identify important concerns for voters and she sees sea-level rise as one of those issues.

And not just among those living near the coast. Sea-level rise can affect inland residents, too. Mayor said she attended a Sea Grant program where they talked about Cape May, N.J., already having a problem with salt water entering drinking water supplies. “They can’t tell how the brackish water is coming in and encroaching on what had traditionally been fresh water,” Mayor said. The same thing could happen here.

Making people aware of this potential problem, Mayor said, “might be a strategy to get people working together.”

Other issues include the economy, agriculture, the environment, safety on Route 1 and education funding, especially for school districts in western Sussex that have lower property values. “I want to make sure the issues that we addressed in November are still issues that people want to address now and validate that jobs are still important,” she said, adding, “I can’t imagine they won’t be.

“The tourism industry, obviously, is something that’s important,” Mayor said, noting that this summer is looking good partially because of the problems New Jersey had with Superstorm Sandy. Mayor herself is part of that tourism industry. Her business, Lavender Fields Farm, near Route 9 at Coolspring, is a destination for visitors. Once the issues are identified, it will be a question, Mayor said, of doing a better job of getting information out to people and making sure that people understand how to get involved. One way to learn about getting involved is coming up. On Saturday, March 16, the Sussex County Democrats will be holding a dinner meeting at the CHEER Center in Georgetown, with U.S. Sen. Chris Coons as the keynote speaker. For information, call Marie Mayor at 684-1602.

  • 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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