Posted: Oct. 5, 2010; updated


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Brad Bennett, a Democratic state representative from Dover, interrupted his campaign season by getting arrested Sunday in Lewes on a drunken-driving charge.

"I can confirm we did actually arrest him," Jeffrey Horvath, the Lewes police chief, said Tuesday morning in a brief interview.

Bennett, 45, the owner of a security business, was released after the stop. Beyond those bare-bones details, no other information was immediately available, and Bennett himself had little to say.

He offered only a short statement, which he delivered in Legislative Hall in Dover about two hours after his arrest became public.

"By now you have heard of charges that have been filed against me. Under advisement of my personal attorney, I cannot currently comment on the details of the situation. The past few months have been trying for both me and my family dealing with personal issues," Bennett said.

"I want to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to my family for the pain they are going through. I also want to apologize to the constituents of the 32nd District and ask that they understand that I am human like everyone else.

"I understand this charge, and I expect to be treated the same as anyone else in this situation. I take full responsibility for my actions and will face any consequences that result from them. . . . I intend to remain a candidate."

Afterwards, Bennett told the Dover Post he separated from his wife Samantha eight months ago and more recently filed for divorce. Samantha Bennett is the daughter of Brian Bushweller, a Democratic state senator from Dover.

The first indication that something was wrong came Monday, when Bennett failed to appear at two major events. He missed a bill-signing ceremony for a scholarship program with Gov. Jack Markell at Delaware State University and also skipped the Belle Everett Dinner, the signature political event for the Kent County Democrats.

Starting Monday evening and continuing into Tuesday morning, word of the arrest was spreading rapidly through the state's political circles.

"As a county chair, I am very disappointed. I am very disappointed. He has two young children, and this is not setting a good example," Abby Betts, the Kent County Democratic chair, said Tuesday morning after she learned of the arrest.

By Tuesday afternoon, there was a statement from Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic majority leader from Rehoboth Beach.

"We are very disappointed in Rep. Bennett's actions, and we certainly do not condone his behavior. As elected officials, we should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen," he said.

"Rep. Bennett needs to answer to this charge, and he will have his day in court. He is entitled to due process, and we will let that judicial process proceed. If the charge is substantiated, the leadership in the House will look to see what is the appropriate action to take as a legislative body."

Whatever the circumstances for the arrest, Bennett took what was shaping up as a tough re-election fight for himself and made it tougher.

The Republicans are targeting freshman Democrats like Bennett, who won their seats in the 2008 Democratic landslide and are most vulnerable to defeat in their next race. Bennett ousted Donna Stone, a Republican representative since 1994, with 57 percent of the vote for the seat once held by his father.

The Republican candidate running against Bennett is Beth Miller, a lawyer who is regarded as one of their top recruits. The party liked her chances before and has no reason to re-think it now.