Archive for November, 2010

Return Day 2010

November 5, 2010

Delaware State band

Grand Marshal Harriet Smith Windsor with son Jim.

Sussex County Council.

Sen. Tom Carper

Braving the rain.

Clerk of the Peace George Parish gets into the spirit of the event.

Christine O'Donnell

Christine O'Donnell and Senator-elect Chris Coons bury the hatchet.

Aubrey Spicer, honorary parade marshal.

County party leaders bury the hatchet.

Town Crier Layton Johnson reads the results.

Congressman Mike Castle and wife Jane with Beau Biden and Chris Coons.

Sussex County Councilman George Cole.

Local election reform way overdue

November 5, 2010

There is a real fine line when it comes to rules and ethics in local elections.

For example, should a candidate accept donations from businesses or organizations that will in all likelihood be involved in a matter requiring that candidate’s vote?

Many times what is accepted is left up to the integrity of the candidate as long as it falls within the limitations allowed by law.

Should a county council candidate accept donations from local Realtors/developers that will, and have had, projects before council?

Many would argue that accepting those donations sets up a candidate for public scrutiny for conflict of interest. Candidates always say they will not let a donation influence their decisions. Even so, the hint of impropriety is always out there.

Should county council members be allowed to work for other candidates at other levels of government?

It’s hard for an elected official to take off his or her council hat and be John Q. Citizen when supporting another candidate. The moniker of being a sitting council member is hard to shake off.

In the District 5 council race, Republican winner Vance Phillips received several donations; most are from Realtors/developers. Although some of the donations are open to scrutiny, he did the right thing with one donation. He returned a $600 donation from planning and zoning commissioner Marty Ross, whom he appointed to the commission.

Kudos to Phillips for taking that action.

The whole issue points to a major flaw in how campaign finances work. Because most candidates will not police themselves, in a perfect world there would be strict campaign regulations in place that disallow donations from anyone in the housing industry in county council races. It only makes sense because the bulk of county revenue and most decisions by council members involve development and land use.

Sussex seeing red; Delaware is blue

November 3, 2010

Republicans rode the wave in the Nov. 2 election in an unprecedented sweep in Sussex County, including the ouster of all three Democratic row offices. The three Democrat winners were Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf in the 14th District, unopposed Sen. George Bunting in the 20th District and John Atkins, a former Republican, in the 41st District.

Republicans took every other seat in Sussex – some without any contenders. Sen. Joe Booth, 19th District; Rep. Dan Short, 39th District; Rep. Gerald Hocker, 38th District; and Rep. Biff Lee, 40th District, walked into new terms without any opposition.

Other winning Republicans were Jack Peterman, unseating incumbent Bob Walls, in the 33rd District; incumbent Dave Wilson in the 35th District; Harvey Kenton in the 36th District, replacing retiring Rep. George Carey; and incumbent Ruth Briggs King in the 37th District.

Republicans Vance Phillips, District 5, and George Cole, District 4, retained their seats on Sussex County Council.

The real shocker occurred in the Sussex row offices with all three incumbents going down in defeat. It’s surprising because all three are well known in the county and have been doing good jobs. The fact they had a “D” beside their names was the kiss of death this time around.

Jeff Christopher, a deputy under former sheriff Robert Reed, will replace Sheriff Eric Swanson; Scott Dailey, owner of Capstone Homes, will replace Recorder of Deeds John Brady; and Cindy Green, a self-employed elder caregiver, will replace Register of Wills Greg Fuller.

Swanson did a lot of damage control in the Sheriff’s Office and got it back on track. Although Fuller proposed fee increases early on, he recanted and has become one of the most visible of all politicians in the county. Brady, who is everywhere, trimmed expenses and helped bring the office into the 21st century with upgraded technology.

To state the three winners ran low-key campaigns would be an understatement. I’m sure the three incumbents were among the most shocked people in Delaware on election night.

The Republican wave swept over Sussex County, into Kent County and was swallowed up by the C&D Canal in New Castle County. Thanks to New Castle voters, Democrats dominated the federal and state races, winning everything from the U.S. Senate and House to treasurer and attorney general. The only kink in the Dems’ armor is Tom Wagner. It appears the long-time Republican state auditor was able to sneak in a win by a 1-percent margin. Democrat Richard Korn says he will probably seek a recount.

Pumpkins in the air

November 3, 2010

This weekend marks the 25th year people have gathered in local farm fields to win bragging rights for throwing a pumpkin the greatest distance. World Championship Punkin Chunkin is like no other event.

From the first winning throw of 126 feet, the event has grown into something nobody expected – a happening of people who dedicate their lives to launching white and orange orbs.

Sophisticated air cannons, hurling pumpkins nearly a mile, have replaced those early contraptions, and the field of play is now a 1,000-acre farm. The world record, held by Young Glory III, a local team, stands at 4,483 feet.

Thanks to national television exposure from the Discovery/Science Channel, Punkin Chunkin is no longer just a local event: It’s now on the national stage. The network plans three hours of coverage this year with “The Road to Punkin Chunkin” airing Wednesday, Nov. 24, followed by a 2-hour special Thanksgiving Day.

Frank Shade, director of media relations and president for eight years, said it’s hard to point to one reason for the event’s success. “It’s a natural progression of throwing things,” he said. “There is a human fascination to see things that are not supposed to move.”

He said 95 percent of those who attend the event are hooked for life.

The event had an inauspicious start with three teams. In 1986, John Ellsworth, Trey Melson, Bill Thompson, Chuck and Darryl Burton and Donald (Doc) Pepper met on a field near Milton in the first official chunk.

This year’s event, which takes place off Route 404 near Bridgeville, is Friday-Sunday, Nov. 5-7. Competition in a variety of divisions – from human power to trebuchet to air cannon – takes place each day with a team’s best throw, shot or chunk recorded. Some wow the crowds with spectacular shots, while others never get a shot off and still others make “pie” as the pumpkin explodes. Other than chunking, a full slate of activities help to attract as many as 80,000 spectators.  Shade said, based on advanced ticket sales and camping requests, this could be the year the attendance tops the 100,000 mark. “Everyone who attends has one thing in common – they love to see pumpkins fly,” he said.

He also said everyone keeps an eye on the air cannons to see if one can finally eclipse the mythical-mile mark.

The Miss Punkin Chunkin Pageant and pumpkin-cooking contest take place Saturday and the chili cook-off starts at 11 a.m. Sunday. Fireworks to celebrate the 25th anniversary will fill the skies at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Music has also become an important part of the event. This year 12 bands are scheduled to perform, including many local favorites like the Funsters, as well as country music star J.C. Anderson.

After three full days, awards will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Last year, the Punkin Chunkin Association awarded $25,000 in scholarships to area high school students. In addition, several local nonprofit organizations make money by assisting the army of volunteers needed to put on the event.

Go to  www,punkinchunkin.com for more information.