Rehoboth Beach voters went to the polls Aug. 14, and in one of the closest races in recent history, Mary A. ‘Toni’ Sharp and Tim Bennett pulled out wins in the city’s 2021 election.
Sharp, who served previously on the city’s board of commissioners for two terms, was the high vote-getter with 622 votes. Bennett, a newcomer to city politics, received 621 votes. It’s the first time since at least 1990 that first and second place have been separated by one vote.
The race for first and second was close, but Sharp and Bennett cleared their competitors by a wide margin. Finishing in third was incumbent Commissioner Richard Byrne, with 559 votes. Planning Commissioner Rachel Macha finished fourth with 491 votes. Sitting Commissioner Pat Coluzzi did not run for re-election.
Cheeks flushed from the excitement of winning, and being in 90-degree heat all day, Sharp said being the high-vote getter was a wonderful surprise. She said she was happy that voters have given her an opportunity to represent them for a third term, and she’s ready, willing and able to step in.
Sharp said she’s going to be focusing her attention on taxpayer money and how it’s spent.
Moments after it was announced he was the second-place finisher, Bennett was still in shock and at a loss for words.
“It’s humbling,” said Bennett.
Relatively new to Rehoboth as a property owner and resident, Bennett said he thinks his message of a better Rehoboth, not a bigger Rehoboth, got through to voters. It will be important for him to listen and speak with all constituents, he said.
Looking forward, Bennett said if Rehoboth Beach wants to call itself The Nation’s Summer Capital, then it’s time to start thinking like it. Also, he said, he would like to see the formation of a communication committee.
Rehoboth’s 2021 election by the numbers
The total number of votes cast in the election was 1,190, with 618 the day of and 572 absentee. There were 1,703 registered voters.
The total number of votes is the second-highest number cast in a non-mayoral election since 1995. In 2007, in a race between current Mayor Stan Mills, sitting Commissioner Patrick Gossett and outgoing Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, there were 1,206 votes cast.
There have been four years with mayoral races that produced more total votes – 1,191 in 2005; 1,218 in 2008; 1,315 in 2017; and 1,471 in 2020.
Last year, in a mayoral election, almost 85 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. This year’s percentage isn’t as high, 69.88 percent, but it’s among the highest for a non-mayoral election in recent memory.
Sharp and Bennett will be sworn into office at the regular commissioners meeting Friday, Sept. 17, to serve three-year terms.