Brian Pettyjohn says voters in State Senate District 19 deserve a better choice than the Republican and Democratic candidates currently running for the seat.
That's why the Republican decided to make it a three-way race by filing last week as a write-in candidate.
"I had a bunch of people coming up to me and asking who I thought they should vote for, because they weren't excited about either candidate," the former Georgetown mayor and town commissioner said last week. "I realized after a while that I had the same decision to make because I wasn't really thrilled with the choices either. That's when I decided to put myself in as a candidate."
Pettyjohn won't just be running against Democrat Jane Hovington and Republican Eric Bodenweiser, who upset incumbent state Sen. Joe Booth in the Sept. 11 primary.
He'll also be facing the odds.
Kenneth McDowell, the director of the Sussex County Elections Department, said the only write-in candidate he remembers winning was an incumbent Dewey Beach mayor who won office in the early 1990s.
"If I remember right, he had forgotten to file his re-election campaign before the deadline, so he ran as a write in," McDowell said. "He won, but then again, he was already an incumbent."
Pettyjohn said he's not concerned about the historically limited success of write-in candidates.
"I really think I can win," said the 38-year-old telecommunications manager for Mountaire Farms in Millsboro. "Based on the number of people I've talked to, those I already knew and those I've met in just the week since I announced, I know my message is resonating with them."
That message includes a platform of fiscal conservatism, reducing state business regulations, directing education funding to classrooms and increasing the number of state and municipal police officers, Pettyjohn said.
He also stressed his experience as an elected official, something the other two candidates do not share, and his willingness to work with others, including those outside the Republican Party.
Pettyjohn said the biggest issue he has with Bodenweiser is what he called his "seeming unwillingness to work with people who are not of a like mind."
"I'm not comfortable with the way he deals with people who don't share the same viewpoints, even within his own party," Pettyjohn said of his fellow Republican. "I feel that if you are in a position of leadership, you need to take in the opinion and views of your entire constituency, and not just one segment."
Pettyjohn said he would not have entered the District 19 state senate race if Booth had defeated Bodenweiser, as he had done in 2010.
"Sen. Booth would have been my choice and I am thoroughly sure that he would have been the choice of the vast majority of the people I spoke with who were not happy with their choice of candidates," he said.
Yet as a second Republican in the race, Pettyjohn could conceivably split the conservative vote with Bodenweiser, and open the door for Hovington to come away with a victory.
"It's always possible," Pettyjohn said of his potential spoiler status. "But I think people who were intending to vote for Eric are still going to vote for him. I think I will end up with a lot of the undecided voters because I'm giving them a choice of who to vote for."
With less than a month to go before the Nov. 6 general election, Pettyjohn said his first priority is to organize some fundraisers to help pay for direct mailers.
"I'm also doing some direct calls and door-to-door campaigning," he said. "My phone number also is available if people want to ask me questions or vet me personally."