Democrats continue to hold edge over Republicans in Sussex County when it comes to the number of registered voters.
Yet a total of six Republican candidates have filed to run for the three Sussex County Council seats on the ballot this year, compared to only two Democrats.
As a result, each of the races for County Council will feature a primary contest on the Republican side, while no Democratic primary will be held in any of the races.
In District 1, incumbent Michael H. Vincent of Seaford will face challenger Scott R. Witzke of Laurel in the Sept. 11 Republican primary. No Democrat has filed to run in that race.
In District 2, incumbent Samuel R. Wilson Jr. of Georgetown will face a challenge from John J. Christensen of Georgetown in the Republican primary, with the winner slated to face Democrat Gary M. Wolfe of Greenwood in the Nov. 6 general election.
And in District 3, Joan Deaver, the lone incumbent Democrat on County Council, will face a general election challenge from the winner of the Republican primary between Georgetown resident Donald R. Ayotte and Millsboro resident Brent A. Wangen.
Sarah Riven, the communications director for the Delaware Democratic Party in Kent and Sussex counties, declined to comment on the possible reasons why the council races have garnered relatively little interest among Democratic candidates.
But Jerry Wood, chairman of the Sussex County Republican Committee, said he believes members of his party are more driven to seek elected office on a county, state and national level because of widespread dissatisfaction with the political status quo.
“Basically, I think we have more people interested in good government than the Democrats,” he said. “The Republicans on County Council have done a good job in holding the line on taxes and keeping services going. I believe a lot of these candidates have an interest in continuing that while fighting a lot of this big government coming down the pike.”
Although each of the council seats up for election this year are in districts where Democratic voters slightly outnumber Republican voters, some candidates said the voters in those districts tend to be more conservative, regardless of party affiliation.
“Most of the residents here might be Democrats, but they tend to be the more-conservative Blue Dog Democrats and not part of this new Obama Democratic Party,” Witzke said of District 1, which has no Democrats running for a council seat despite that party outnumbering Republicans 10,080 to 9,150. “I know I’m running because I think the voters want a more conservative candidate, who is businesses-minded and an advocate of property rights.”
Sam Wilson, the incumbent Republican County Council member from District 2, said he believes voters in his district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a scant 98 registered voters, are more interested in the individual candidate than the party to which they belong.
Page 2 of 3 - “I think for most voters, it’s a personality thing and choosing the candidate they know and like,” he said. “Some people play politics too much. My philosophy is to vote for what is right, treat people how I would want to be treated and let politics take care of itself.”
Gary M. Wolfe, a Democrat running against Wilson, said partisanship has nothing to do with why he is seeking office.
“As I’ve mentioned previously to those who’ve asked the reason I’m running for County Council, (it) is not dissatisfaction with a particular party or its ideology,” he said. “The District 2 seat is responsible for a very large area and several key municipalities in the county so the individual sitting in the seat needs to be someone who is willing to work hard for all the areas of their district, and it does not matter which party they run with.”
Deaver, the lone Democrat currently serving on County Council, agreed that voters tend to consider an individual candidate’s positions over party affiliation.
That’s because decisions at the county level tend to come down to a question of personal philosophy, rather than party politics, she said.
“Right now, three council members run the show and vote for pretty much any kind of development that comes along,” she said. “They don’t want to have a county planner and they don’t have a plan for saving the inland bays. I don’t agree with them on that, although I don’t know how much it has to do with party.”
However, Deaver did say is concerned about the possibility of a uniformly Republican council.
“It’s a danger to have only one party, or one philosophy on the issues,” she said. “You want a healthy debate and input from both sides. That’s what democracy is all about, yet we’re already close to the edge now.”
Donald Ayotte, one of two Republicans vying to challenge Deaver in the general election, said an all-GOP council would not exclude a diversity of opinion.
“My goal as a candidate is to change the way County Council, both Republicans and Democrats, currently do business,” he said. “The biggest concerns I hear from voters are about this $30,000-a-year slush fund that council members friviously dole out to whatever causes they want, and the issue over the sheriff’s powers, which started with a vote in the Republican-controlled council. Those are some of the things I would like to change if elected.”
Meanwhile, Brent Wangen, who is running against Ayotte in the District 3 Republican primary, said voters would prefer lower taxes and stronger property rights over a token voice of dissent.
“I was asked to enter this race by voters who don’t feel the other Republican candidate represents their voice,” he said. “The Republicans currently on council have been very successful at keeping down the county’s historically low taxes while efficiently maintaining services. I think those are the kinds of fiscally conservative policies voters would like to see continued.”
Page 3 of 3 - Michael Vincent and John Christensen did not return messages seeking comment for this article.