Homeowners call Briggs King to taskNo peace in row office battle
Millsboro — Veterans and manufactured homeowners want a representative who will advocate for them in Dover. At a Millsboro candidates forum, some Sussex County residents made legislators answer for their votes on critical issues over the last year.
About 90 people heard from 20 candidates at the Oct. 9 forum, held at American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro. One candidate bore the brunt of questions from the audience. Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, is battling a challenge from Democrat Beth McGinn, an American Legion volunteer and member of Delaware Manufactured Homeowners Association.
After candidates introduced themselves, Auxiliary President Tina Washington, who moderated the event said, “My God, all of these questions are for you, Ruth.”
Briggs King and McGinn were asked about public safety and relevant work experience, but Briggs King was drilled by audience members about manufactured housing.
This past legislative session, Briggs King opted out of a vote on Senate Bill 205, which would have limited lot rent increases for manufactured homeowners in Delaware. The bill passed the Senate, but it was defeated in the House July 19, by a 22-14 vote.
McGinn, who knew many attendants by name, said Briggs King claims to work for the homeowners, but did not vote in their interest. “We need enthusiastic participation,” she said.
Briggs King said she recused herself on grounds of a perceived conflict of interest.
Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, who attended the forum, noted Briggs King’s district changed more than any other district in Sussex County.
Representative District 37 used to cover much of Lewes and Georgetown. The new district encompasses central Georgetown, increasing the Hispanic population from more than 17 percent to more than 19 percent. The district also includes much of Long Neck, where many of the county’s manufactured home parks are located.
“The district changed dramatically this year,” Briggs King said. “I know the real problems in this area with housing.”
Briggs King maintained that SB 205 was a flawed bill, and she said there are solutions to the housing problems in the area, but the right solutions have not yet been presented.
“People don’t want to be honest with you and tell you they won’t vote for these bills,” she said. “I’m telling you honestly.
When asked about past comments she made at a Delaware Manufactured Homeowners meeting, Briggs King stood by her comments about homeowners who feel stuck. “You have a choice,” she said. “You can sell the home or you can relocate.”
Briggs King said the location of the communities allows homeowners to get a good price for their home. “Homes are reselling in these communities,” she said.
To better protect manufactured homeowners, Briggs King said the Delaware Code regarding manufactured homes needs improvement. She also said the Attorney General’s Office must play a role in enforcing the code and prosecuting violators. Consumer protection laws are too complicated and rental-assistance programs are underutilized, she said.
In a closing statement, Briggs King said she developed a good reputation with voters in Lewes for keeping her promises. “I told them the things they needed to hear, not always the things they wanted to hear,” she said. Briggs King said, if elected, she would do the same for her new constituents in RD 37.
Clerk of Peace
Three candidates running for Sussex County Clerk of Peace were asked about their position on marriage.
Libertarian candidate David Eisenhour said it is not the clerk of peace’s role to fight the legislature. Eisenhour said his approach to the office is to provide good customer service and make the county more money. The clerk should not turn customers away and provide the service only for select people, he said.
Eisenhour is also running for Insurance Commissioner, but at the forum he spoke only as a candidate for Clerk of Peace.
Republican candidate Brooks Madison Witzke, who graduated from Greenwood Mennonite School in 2008, said marriage should be between a man and a woman. “I plan to fight to keep it that way,” he said.
Democratic candidate Attorney John Brady said, “I’m going to follow the law.” When Brady was voted in as Sussex County Recorder of Deeds in 2002, he was the first openly gay person elected to public office in Delaware.
“If you wanted to fight for policy, maybe you should be running for the legislature,” Brady said.
In a closing statement, Witzke said the clerk of peace should be able to oppose the legislature’s decision. “You are the one who marries people,” he said.
Witzke also called Brady bitter. “It’s been a tough couple of elections for old John,” he said.
To watch video footage of the forum, go to catchitlive.com.
Quick forum facts
*Keith Spanarelli, a Democrat who ran against U.S. Sen. Tom Carper in the Sept. 11 primary, now works for Independent U.S. Senate candidate Alex Pires and represented Pires at the forum.
*Write-in candidate for Senate District 19 Brian Pettyjohn participated in the forum even though his name will not appear on the November ballot. Pettyjohn labels himself as a conservative, and is the former mayor of Georgetown. Republican candidate Eric Bodenweiser was absent.
*Explaining his failed proposal to bring a casino to Sussex County, Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he is not a gambling man; he was only hoping to create more jobs in the county.
*Libertarian David Eisenhour and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn were the only candidates seeking statewide offices who attended the forum.