Gooch launches campaign for Sussex sheriff

Opposes incumbent Christopher on enforcement power
June 3, 2014
Ronald "Beau" Gooch officially kicked of his campaign for Sussex County sheriff May 29. Here he is addressing the supportive crowd that gathered at Irish Eyes in Lewes BY CHRIS FLOOD

The position of Sussex County sheriff can officially be added to the list things that Beau knows.

Playing off the famous Nike advertising campaign in the early 1990s featuring multi-sport all-star Bo Jackson, Ronald “Beau” Gooch kicked off his campaign for the Sussex County sheriff’s seat May 29.

“I don’t want to just win, I want to blow them out,” Gooch said to a supportive crowd of more than 100 people at Irish Eyes in Lewes.

Gooch, a Democrat from Milton who worked for the Lewes Police Department for 27 years - 14 as chief - said he wasn’t a politician but had been thinking about running for the seat for more than a year. He said his experience in law enforcement shows he can do the job required by Delaware law.

Gooch said getting his message out to the eastern part of the county would be easy, but he admitted he needed help in the western part and urged the crowd to get out and do what ever possible to spread the word.

Gooch makes three candidates for a seat that is quickly becoming the most hotly contested race for the upcoming November election.

Incumbent Jeff Christopher, a Republican from Greenwood, filed for re-election April 9. Robert Lee, a Republican from Seaford, filed April 2.

Christopher attracted national attention in his effort to redefine the role of county sheriff, which led to a long legal battle with state and county officials. Christopher said the state constitution allows his office to carry out law-enforcement duties. The Delaware Supreme Court ruled it does not.

Lee has gone on record saying the Sheriff's Office does not need arrest powers to carry out its duties as an officer of the court.

Sussex County Democratic chair Mitch Crane, a former attorney and judge from Pennsylvania, spoke at Gooch’s event and said there were times when he didn’t agree with the system he took an oath to abide by, but that didn’t mean enforcing them wasn’t an option.

If there’s a disagreement, that’s what the courts are for, Crane said. People in elected office cannot purposely ignore the laws there are elected to uphold, he said.

There needs to be a change, said Crane, and Gooch is the kind of man who is that change.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, a former state trooper, has known Gooch for more than 30 years.

Politically, Beau is a bit of a novice, said Schwartzkopf, but that’s good because it means he’s getting into the race for the right reasons and not for political reasons.

Schwartzkopf said it’s fine with him if the people of the state want their sheriff to have arrest powers. The people are the ones who make changes, he said, not the person who has been elected to the seat by the people.

“I’m for the law and if that’s what the people want to do that’s fine,” he said.

As of press time June 2, Gooch had not filed his papers with the county election board. The filing deadline is noon Tuesday, July 8 for all candidates. The primary for both parties is Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate that candidate Robert Lee does not call for arrest powers for the Sheriff's Office.

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