In 2012, Ernie Lopez became the first senator of the newly created 6th District covering Rehoboth Beach and Lewes. He also became the state’s first Hispanic senator.
After three terms in office, however, he announced July 16 that he won’t seek a fourth term.
“It’s been a wonderful decade in office, but with two girls about to move through high school and on to college, and two parents getting a little bit older, I thought it was a good time to take a break from politics and keep the door open for anything in the future,” he said.
Lopez said he is coming off a successful session, and the timing is right, particularly since all 62 legislative seats will be up for election in 2022. Following the population results of the 2020 census, the state Legislature will redistrict Delaware’s legislative seats later this year.
Throughout his career, Lopez said, he is most proud of the passage of Rylie’s Law and a bill to protect Delaware’s coastline from offshore drilling.
“The fact that we were not only able to save the life of one child but have enriched the lives of children and families across the state has been a powerful thing,” he said. “And then to pass the banning of offshore drilling bill two years ago was another legacy piece to show people in the district that you can strike a balance between business and maintain the importance of your natural resources in a coastal district.”
Lopez said he is proud of the bipartisanship that he brought to the seat. Mediating issues that were difficult, not being afraid of bringing people to the table is a legacy that others are going to have to follow, he said.
Lopez said he has spoken with other people about the seat opening, but they will have to make that decision. The first person he called was Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton. “I felt like that was an important call and one that I owed to him. I hope he gives it consideration. He’s done a great job for 10 years, and would be terrific,” he said.
But, Lopez added that the process is in no way preordained, and he announced his early retirement to give people plenty of time to consider.
“I want to make sure whoever is able to take the place after me is someone who is focused on problem solving and working together, working across the aisle and addressing the challenges that we’re facing here locally,” he said.
Smyk could not be reached for comment.
Lopez, 44, a state 4-H extension specialist with the University of Delaware, will continue his work there, and said he has not ruled out another run for public service in the future.
“I am very happy. This was my decision to go out on my own terms. I feel like I’m doing my best work in the Senate now. For the next 15 months, I’ll continue to work hard on [constituents’] behalf just as I have done over the past 10 years,” said Lopez. “I will keep the door open for public service if the opportunity arises. But for right now, it’s been a great run, and it’s time to focus on the family.”