Cape Gazette
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Politics

Independent Party says no to ‘symbolic campaigns’

By Don Flood | Jul 29, 2014

Among the more interesting 2012 races was the Representative District 20 race between Republican Steve Smyk and Democrat Marie Mayor.

Some polls showed Mayor ahead late in the race, but Smyk pulled it out, winning about 53 percent of the vote.

Those two candidates are back, but the race also includes another contender, Don Ayotte of the Independent Party of Delaware.

Ayotte, who lives outside Georgetown, ran and lost in 2012 as a Republican against Democrat Joan Deaver for the Sussex County Council District 3 seat.

Though Deaver won relatively easily, with about 56 percent of the vote, Ayotte outpolled her in some areas. He’s counting on his strength in the smaller District 20, where he served as a Republican Election District chair, to carry him to victory.

(Both Sussex County Council District 3 and Representative District 20 include Milton and Lewes, but District 3 extends farther north and south.)

As a former Republican, Ayotte might be expected to draw more votes from Smyk than Mayor. But, he insists, “I’m no spoiler, I can tell you that.”

“If I can do 8,000 homes and talk to those people,” Ayotte said, “I believe I’ve got this thing.”

He’s definitely out there knocking on doors. His campaign recently dropped off literature at my house.

And that’s part of a new strategy of the Independent Party of Delaware.

“We’re concentrating with areas, districts where we have a chance of winning,” said Wolfgang von Baumgart, state party chairman. “We used to be happy just to have warm bodies on the ballot.” Now, he said, they’ve raised the criteria for candidates.

Baumgart said he recently received a call from a man who wanted to run as an Independent just so he could take part in the debates. Baumgart said he told him to try another party.

If that means fewer candidates, so be it. “We’re not running symbolic campaigns,” Baumgart said.

Though Ayotte had already filed, the party’s official nominating convention was held Saturday at Ayotte’s house on Gravel Hill Road. Ayotte said about 15 people attended.

As of Monday morning, Ayotte was the only candidate running for the Independent Party. By email, Ayotte said, “We are working on a candidate for the 14th District, but haven’t nailed anything down yet.”

Their aim is to actually win an election. Just one Independent Party member serving in the General Assembly, Ayotte said, would “change the political landscape.”

They do face some problems, beginning with their name. Ayotte said people still get confused about the difference between being a member of the Independent Party of Delaware and being an “independent,” or unaffiliated voter.

His campaign literature includes a form telling people how to make sure they are properly registered as members of the Independent Party.

They’re also plagued with a ghost website: independentpartyofdelaware.org.

Google the state Independent Party and that’s the site that pops up first. An apparition from the party’s past, it hasn’t been changed since 2006. It includes outdated party platforms and contact information.

“It’s basically the Flying Dutchman of political websites,” said Baumgart.

Unfortunately, they’ve been unable to get the site taken down, though they plan to do so.

The current, correct website is the same except that it has “.com” at the end instead of “.org.”

Independentpartyofdelaware.com is very colorful and features a picture of the State House surrounded by bright yellow “CRIME SCENE” tape. Near the top it says, “Politics is NOT the Answer,” an interesting message for what is, after all, a political party. But you get the idea this is not a party interested in the status quo.

The site includes platforms not just for the Independent Party, but also for the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green parties.

According to Baumgart, that’s a measure of the confidence the Independents have in their platform, which is called “Blueprint for Freedom.”

Baumgart said it’s designed to take power from special interests and back to the people. (The website, which features many buttons, still has some areas under construction.)

Ayotte feels he can work within his new party. “Although my party affiliation has changed, my political philosophy has not,” he said. “I’m a conservative person. I’m both fiscally and socially conservative.”

“But I do fit in with the people of the Independent Party of Delaware, because they are not judgmental,” Ayotte said. That wasn’t his experience with the Republicans.

“The infighting within the Republican Party is unbelievable,” he said. “I got sick and tired of it.” Democrats have the same problem, he said, but they do a better job of hiding it.

In addition to being a candidate, Ayotte is director of special operations, which includes recruiting for the party. The contact number is 302-344-4433.

•••

Reader Howard Gaskill of Georgetown contacted me this week to say that the Afghanistan and Iraqi operations were not “our first unpaid-for wars.”

He mentioned President Johnson’s “guns and butter” policy during Vietnam. “I believe the Vietnam War was our first conflict where the home folks were not taxed, subjected to rationing or inconvenienced for the duration,” he wrote.

This is a good point. We didn’t start down this road with President George W. Bush. I should have said it was the first time taxes were lowered during wartime.

The other big difference was that men were still being drafted during Vietnam. Imagine how hard it would be to build support for wars if the draft were still in effect.

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