The country’s presidential race may have been close, but Sussex County races for the 2016 election were anything but. Among seven state-level and two county-level races, there wasn’t a single race with less than a 12-point victory.
Republican I.G. Burton won 15 of the 18 Sussex County Council District 3 polling places on his way to a 14,308 – 11,318 victory over Democrat Leslie Ledogar. His 56 percent to 44-percent win over Ledogar was the closest in the Sussex.
With the victory, Burton, a long-time Sussex County businessman who lives in Lewes, will have to step down from his seat on the county's planning and zoning commission, a position he has held for 11 years. When he takes the seat, all five members of council will be Republicans for the first time since council was established by state law in 1970.
In a Sussex County Republican landslide, Burton's race was the closest. Surrounded by family and friends, Burton watched election-night results as they were posted at a Republican gathering at the Sussex County Association of Realtors. An exhausted Burton, who with his wife, Jullie, traveled throughout the district all day, said he was astounded at the support he received from other politicians, family and friends.
“I'm relieved, elated and excited and ready to do the job,” he said.
He also complimented his opponent. “Leslie ran a very professional campaign, and I was glad for that,” he said.
This was Burton's first run for elected office; his planning and zoning commission seat is an appointed position. “The one big lesson I learned is that you can't do this without support,” he said. “At first, I thought I could do it, but I had no idea that I couldn't do it without lots of people rallying around us.”
Burton, who will take office in January 2017, is replacing Democratic Councilwoman Joan Deaver who is stepping down after serving eight years.
Republican council President Mike Vincent of Seaford and Vice President Sam Wilson of Georgetown each won a third term on council in uncontested races.
The morning after a decisive win over Democratic challenger Barbara Vaughan and Independent Party of Delaware challenger Don Ayotte in the 20th Representative District race, Republican incumbent Steve Smyk said the results were a confirmation of what he heard as he knocked on doors. He won all 10 election districts.
“I did a couple hours of door knocking on four days to get a flavor,” said Smyk, who garnered 62 percent of the vote to Vaughan’s 37 percent and Ayotte’s 1 percent. “What I heard was that most people were happy.”
Looking forward to January, when he begins his third two-year term, Smyk said there’s still a lot of work to be done, but he and his fellow legislators need to worry about the economy above anything else. It has to be that important, he said.
Following an exhaustive day campaigning, Vaughan and Ledogar held a gathering in the Cape Room of Grotto’s Grand Slam. They each said a few quick words as it became clear it wasn’t going to be their night.
Vaughan said she changed the conversation, and some real issues were talked about.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” said Vaughan, addressing a few dozen supporters. “All of you worked so hard, and I’m so proud of you. I’m so humbled because you put your heart and soul into this.”
Ledogar was resolute saying her campaign literally came out of nowhere to build the teal, the color chosen by Ledogar and her supporters to represent the campaign.
“I just want you to know this ain’t over,” she said, while standing next to Vaughan. “Whether we’re running for the House or running for county council, we have started a conversation. We have said, no, we’re not going to roll over. We have said, yes, we want to be heard. Believe me, folks, that conversation is going to continue.”
In the 14th Representative District, lone Democratic incumbent Pete Schwartzkopf was the county’s lone Democratic winner. He defeated Republican challenger James DeMartino, with 64 percent of the 14,629 total votes.
First elected in 2002, Schwartzkopf, who has been Speaker of the House since 2012, said he was grateful to be re-elected to his eighth term in office. He described the voting process as a review of the job he’s done, and he said the results show his constituents are happy with his work.
“There’s no one who goes to Dover to support Sussex County as much as I do,” he said.
As in years past, Schwartzkopf said the budget will be one of the most important issues. He said the state is facing a $165 million dollar hole this year, and if nothing is done that number increases to $300 million.
There are only three ways, said Schwartzkopf, to get out of a budget deficit – raise revenue, cut spending or a combination of the two.
“And raising revenue just got a lot harder,” he said, referring to Democratic incumbent Patricia Blevins’ loss to Republican Anthony Delcollo in the 7th Senatorial District race. Blevins had spent the last General Assembly as Senate Pro Temp. “Now, I’m going to need two Senate votes, and it took six months two years ago to get a transportation funding bill passed that both Democrats and Republicans wanted.”
A gracious DeMartino said he understood it was an uphill battle from the beginning because Schwartzkopf is a long-term incumbent and speaker of the House. He’s got a strong support group, said DeMartino, pointing specifically to the business community.
“They like the advantages that come with him being speaker,” he said.
DeMartino said he had hoped to do better than 36 percent of the vote, but he said this campaign was just the beginning of his Delaware political career.
“I have more to learn,” he said. “I plan on continuing my involvement with Sussex County and the political community.”
For the second time in as many election cycles, Republican incumbent Ruth Briggs King defeated Democratic challenger Paulette Rappa, 6,720 votes to 4,038. In 2014, she defeated her 4,173 votes to 2,214. Briggs King has represented the district since 2009.
In the 35th Representative District race, Republican incumbent Dave Wilson defeated Gary Wolfe, 6,552 to 2,435. Wilson has represented the district since 2008.
In the 41st Representative District race, Republican incumbent Rich Collins defeated Democratic challenger Brad Connor, 5,899 votes to 4,070. Collins has represented the district since 2014.
In the 20th Senatorial District race, Republican incumbent Gerald Hocker overwhelmed Democratic challenger Perry Mitchell, 17,908 to 6,831.
In the clerk of the peace race, Republican Norman Jones easily defeated Democrat Charles Koskey, 58,635 votes to 40,881.
Just like the Sussex County races, the statewide races were decided early, but unlike in Sussex, the GOP didn’t fare well.
It started at the top with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s defeat of Republican Donald Trump, 53 percent to 42 percent, in the presidential race. Trump did garner more votes in Kent and Sussex counties, 99,596 to 72,676, but Clinton nearly doubled him in New Castle County, 162,905 to 85,507. In Sussex County, Trump received 62,607 votes to Clinton’s 39,329.
Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester becomes the first woman and African American to represent Delaware as a U.S. Representative after defeating Republican Hans Reigle, 56 percent to 41 percent. Libertarian Scott Gesty and Green Party candidate Mark Perri each received less than two percent of the vote.
Rochester is filling the seat of soon-to-be former U.S. Representative John Carney, a Democrat, who defeated Republican challenger Colin Bonini, 58 percent to 39 percent, in the race to be Delaware’s next governor. Libertarian Sean Goward and Green Party candidate Andrew Groff each received less than 2 percent of the vote.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Democrat Bethany Hall-Long defeated Republican La Mar Gunn, 59 percent to 41 percent. The lieutenant governor’s seat has been vacant since January 2015, when Democrat Matt Denn stepped down and was sworn in as attorney general.
Just like in the lieutenant governor’s race, the Democrat, Trinidad Navarro, defeated the Republican, Jeff Cragg, 59 percent to 41 percent for the Insurance Commissioner’s post.