It appears Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns is learning the hard way that if a candidate is going to have an ad about honesty and integrity, the statements in that ad should be correct.
In an ad published in the Aug. 4 edition of the Cape Gazette, Kuhns, a candidate for mayor, questioned the honesty and integrity of candidate Patrick Gossett, a former commissioner. He said Gossett and his supporters claim he was elected three times.
“Blatantly false,” said Kuhns.
In reality, it’s Kuhns’ statement that is false. Gossett was elected three times. In separate emails to Kuhns and the Cape Gazette, Gossett provided the city’s election results from 2004, 2012 and 2015.
In an Aug. 5 email to Gossett, Kuhns admitted he was wrong.
“What I published was not factual,” said Kuhns. “I mistakenly relied upon information provided to me by others. It was extremely irresponsible of me to publish such a statement without doing the due diligence required to discover all of the facts. I have mistakenly questioned your honesty on this specific issue, and for that I do apologize.”
Gossett took the opportunity to turn Kuhns’ words against him.
“You are correct in one regard,” said Gossett, to Kuhns. “As your ad states in its headline “Honesty and Integrity do matter."
In addition to calling out Kuhns for making false comments, Gossett is questioning a statement made in Kuhns’ ad telling people who have turned in their absentee ballots that they still have a chance to change their vote.
Gossett makes two points. First, the Delaware Department of Elections has a question and answer section for absentee balloting. If a person scrolls down to the very end, he said, they will see the following, “If your ballot has already been returned to the [City] and is being prepared to be counted, you will not be permitted to vote at the polling place.”
Gossett then references a section of state election law applying to how a municipality should handle an absentee ballot. That section says, “Place the ballot envelope in a secure location until such time as it is opened and the ballot within it is counted.”
Gossett said it would be a violation of both the letter and spirit of the code if city staff can pull an absentee ballot to allow a voter to change their vote.
In an email Aug. 5 to the Cape Gazette, Kuhns stood by the statement. If a person has submitted an absentee ballot and wants to change, they have until absentee ballot counting starts at 11 a.m., the day of the election, to make that change, he said.
Krys Johnson, city spokesperson said, confirmed the mayor’s statement. She said absentee ballots can be changed up until counting begins at 11 a.m. Photo ID is required and election staff will check the name against the absentee ballots returned list for verification, she said.
“In the very few instances in the past where a request for a new absentee ballot has been made, the city has a solid tracking practice to ensure the elector is not permitted to vote twice and to ensure the elector’s candidate selection is not revealed,” said Johnson, in an email Aug. 5.