Posted: Jan. 3, 2007


Ring in the new, Part I

When the Delaware Democrats celebrated on Election Night 2006, Sussex County was the wallflower of the party.

New Castle County Democrats got bragging rights for delivering the votes that made Beau Biden the attorney general and for picking up two seats in the state House of Representatives. Kent County Democrats, for years a sad-sack subdivision, were euphoric after flipping the Levy Court to their control and also adding a House seat.

It was such a huge Democratic year that Sussex County did contribute something, knocking off a Republican sheriff, but otherwise it lagged. Sussex was the only county that did not get with the program emphatically laid down by state Democratic Chair John D. Daniello, a hard-driving political throwback, who ordered the party to recruit, recruit, recruit and organize, organize, organize.

That may change. Shirley A. Price, the ex-legislator who was the Sussex County Democratic chair, is resigning because of personal commitments. Not very surprisingly, her likely replacement is a believer in the Daniello way -- not just because it has worked, but because this is a party run by Daniello, after all.

The path appears to be clear for Thomas J. Chapman, a 42-year-old government teacher at Seaford High School, to take over the county party when it holds an election Feb. 19.

"I haven't heard any strong opposition to him, although it's always a possibility that someone else will decide to run," said Peter Schott, the Sussex acting chair.

Schott is not interested in the post himself. He already has enough responsibility as the president of the Stonewall Democrats, a club for the party's gay voters, and as the chair of the 14th Representative District, so he is content to return to his role as county vice chair.

The switch in leadership means that both major parties will go into 2008 with a new Sussex chair. William Swain Lee, the retired judge who led the Republicans, also stepped down and is likely to be succeeded by David M. Burris, a real estate agent who ran the 2006 get-out-the-vote operation.

Tom Chapman is an active party member who once ran for office himself, losing a 2004 legislative race to Tina Fallon, a Republican state representative who retired with the 2006 election. Whether or not he becomes the county chair, Chapman says he intends to take on the Daniello specialty of running the Sussex candidate recruitment and development effort.

"It is our intention to field candidates in every race, and not just names," Chapman said. "We were heartened by the performance in Kent County."

Ring in the new, Part II

After a dispiriting election season, there is change at Republican state headquarters, where Garrett Wozniak is the new executive director.

Wozniak was installed after almost the entire staff -- the executive director, the communications director and the office manager -- was dismissed in a move described as cost-cutting, even if it looked more like blood-letting.

Wozniak, 24, was promoted to the top operational job after working as the campaign coordinator for local races in 2006. Originally from Gaithersburg, Md., with an undergraduate degree from Towson University in economics and political science, he got into politics here through his graduate work at the University of Delaware, where he was a legislative fellow and earned a master's in public administration in May.

All that Wozniak has to do for the 2008 election is pull the levers so the Republicans can win the governorship for the first time in 20 years, remove U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s seat from the Democratic side of the aisle after six terms, and keep the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives. Piece of cake.