The contrasts are stark in the race for District 37 in the House of Representatives. District 37 includes sections of the Georgetown-Lewes-Long Neck area.
Republican incumbent Ruth Briggs King is a lifelong Sussex County resident. Democratic opponent Paulette Rappa has lived in Sussex full-time for four years.
Briggs King says she's in favor of looking at incorporating Long Neck as a town – it's one of the fastest growing areas in Sussex County – if residents want the change. Rappa says residents couldn't afford it. She says better county and state coordination is necessary.
Briggs King says a long-awaited study to deal with flooding and drainage issues in the Long Neck-Oak Orchard area paves a pathway for solutions, but funding is an issue. Rappa says that's not good enough, and immediate action is needed.
Rappa said she would have the upper hand getting through legislation serving in the majority party in the House. Briggs King said she prides herself as a coalition builder who works for what is best for district residents.
In their first debate, it became clear they have opposing views on many issues.
The candidates answered more than 20 questions covering manufactured housing and land-use issues during a June 23 forum hosted by the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association.
Briggs King, first elected to the House in 2009, has served on several legislative committees. She is executive director of the Sussex County Association of Realtors and is involved with numerous civic organizations. “Serving is my passion; I want to give back to the community,” she said.
The Georgetown resident and her husband Stan have two children and two grandchildren.
Briggs King said she welcomes the positive changes occurring in Sussex County and is working to create a task force to revisit Chapter 70 of state code that regulates manufactured homes. “It has many flaws,” she said. She also supports more seasonal police presence in the county.
She said downstate legislators – who are mostly Republican – work together. She said minority legislators served a critical role in stopping a proposed 10-cent gas tax hike and a proposed water fee of about $48 per household.
“When you know better, you do better,” she said.
Rappa has lived in Pot Nets Bayside in Long Neck for eight years on a part-time basis and full time since 2009. “I understand the leased-land issues. I'm tired of my home being called a car. Manufactured homes need to be changed from titles to deeds,” she said.
Rappa, who moved to the area from New Jersey, has a blended family of eight children. She has a background in education and has taken a leave of absence from her job at Connecting Generations to focus on her campaign.
Rappa said she offers a contrast to her opponent. “I live on leased land and have never worked for landowners,” she said.
She also said she wanted voters to remember two numbers: 26 and 13.
“As a Democrat in the House I would have 26 votes behind me; she would have 13 votes. Who can get the job done? Who has the support of the House?” Rappa asked.
She said she is concerned that resources in Sussex County will not match the aging population with the number of residents over the age of 65 tripling by 2030. “We are not set up for that; we need to be prepared,” she said.
She said the county needs a four-year college and additional vocational training options.
“We need to teach 21st century skills that match the 21st century marketplace in our own backyard,” she said.
Flooding and drainage is a key issue in low-lying areas in District 37. Briggs King said the recently completed state study has solutions but no funding to back it up. She said she would have rather seen the $12 million recently spent on trails used for flooding and drainage issues.
Rappa said the study went halfway and stopped. She said it's ironic that only a few miles away federal money was used to rebuild beaches. “Money is there. It depends on how dedicated you are to find it,” she said.
The candidates did agree on some issues. Both said they side with residents who are questioning a proposed music venue on a 500-acre farm near Harbeson. Briggs King said rural roads with no shoulders can't handle the proposed traffic.
“I'm not in favor of it at this point; I need more details. Sure, it would generate revenue, but what are we giving up?” Rappa asked.
Sussex County Planning and Zoning will have a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 10, on an application to allow use of the property up to five times a year for concerts.
Both candidates also sided with opponents against the proposed Massey's Landing RV Park. The park has been recommended for approval by Sussex County Planning and Zoning; council has yet to take a vote on the project.