Republican Eric Bodenweiser has officially suspended his campaign for the District 19 state senate seat, a spokesman for the Sussex County GOP reported late Friday night.
"I have received word that he sent an email to state Republican [committee] chairman John Sigler a few hours ago to say he has suspended his campaign for personal reasons," said Sherwood "Duke" Brooks of the Sussex County Republican Committee.
Bodenweiser did not return multiple messages seeking comment. No one answered the door at his home in Georgetown or at his campaign headquarters earlier in the day.
Word of Bodenweiser's decision to suspend his campaign came less than 24 hours after media reports began to surface that Delaware State Police are investigating the 53-year-old retired businessman.
Those reports followed Bodenweiser's conspicuous absence from scheduled appearances at several high-profile campaign events over the last week.
Bodenweiser failed to appear at the annual Wings and Wheels event in Georgetown on Saturday, despite having paid $75 for a table. He also did not show up to the Sussex Republican Committee's meeting on Monday or a candidate's forum at the American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro on Tuesday.
Brooks, who said he spoke to Bodenweiser on Monday, reported that the state senate candidate told him pressing family issues had prevented his appearance at Wings and Wheels.
"In every case, family comes first so I had no reason to doubt or question him," Brooks said. "At this point, all I know is what he told me and what I've read in the paper."
Although rumors that Bodenweiser is the subject of an alleged police investigation have been swirling throughout the senate district in recent days, Delaware State Police have so far declined to dispel those reports.
"As with any investigation that the state police may or may not be conducting, I can neither confirm nor deny any criminal investigation that may be ongoing as to not compromise the integrity of any interviews or investigative measures utilized to thoroughly and comprehensively investigate any crime," state police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack said in an email Friday.
"I've heard the rumors, but I tend to discount them because the fact is, this is politics and people will say anything to hurt their opponent or a candidate with whom they might disagree," Brooks said. "I consider Bodie to be a personal friend and wish him all the best, but if it turns out there is a criminal probe of some kind, I think he has done the right and honorable thing by stepping aside to focus on that."
Because Bodenweiser has only suspended his campaign and not officially withdrawn from the race, his name will remain on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, preventing the Republican Party from appointing a candidate to face Democratic candidate Jane Hovington, a 62-year-old Georgetown resident and community activist.
Brooks said he anticipates party members will begin rallying their support behind former Georgetown mayor Brian Pettyjohn, a Republican who formally filed in as a write-in candidate for the state senate seat Oct. 1.
"As a party, it is our job to get Republicans elected to office, and I think the party at the county and state level will do what we can to make sure Mr. Pettyjohn is our next state senator in District 19," he said.
Pettyjohn said Bodenweiser's decision would not affect his write-in campaign.
"We will continue our efforts to educate the public about how write-ins work while delivering my message throughout the district," he said. "I believe we might pick up some support now that I'm the only Republican actively running, but it won't change the way we approach the election."
Although Pettyjohn has been critical of Bodenweiser in the past, the Georgetown resident said he draws no satisfaction from the recent turn of events.
"Obviously, Eric is going through some very serious times and even though he was my opponent, I've known him a long time and I hate to see anyone go through something like this," he said. "My thoughts and my prayers go out Eric and his family right now."