Posted: Dec. 4, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Ken "Let's Make It" Simpler did more than earn his way into Delaware's political lore when he won the treasurer's race to be the first new Republican elected statewide in 20 years.

He also set off a round of speculation in the state's political circles to figure out how he did it. This was to be expected, considering he beat the registration that was stacked against him with 125,000 more Democratic than Republican voters.

Sure, he had that catchy "Let's Make It Simpler" slogan and the irresistible logic of "a finance guy for a finance job," not to mention a well-run and well-financed campaign.

Simpler's timing was good, too, for the election in which he polled 54 percent of the vote against Sean Barney, the Democratic candidate, and another minor party candidate.

Simpler ran in a non-presidential election year, when Democratic voters are less likely to turn out, and it was also the "Six-Year Itch," the election mid-way through a president's second term, when the president's party typically gets clobbered at the polls. Barack Obama and the Democrats did their part in 2014 to keep the trend going.

There is also the thought Chip Flowers could have made the treasurer's race unsafe for any Democrat with that madcap term he had. It certainly did him in and sent him fleeing not only from the election field but from the state.

As problematic as Flowers was, he was nevertheless the first African-American candidate elected to statewide office, and there is a sense Simpler ran better than any Republican has a right to do in Wilmington, where the electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic and black, as a protest vote to show support for Flowers.

Then again, it all could have come down to Sussex County.

Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic speaker and political numerologist, did the math.

Schwartzkopf has a vested interest in Sussex County, since he lives there in Rehoboth Beach, but he has the numbers to make his case.

In the combined vote in Wilmington, suburban New Castle County and Kent County, Simpler and Barney fought to a dead heat, hard as it is to believe. From the northern arc of the state down to the Mispillion, Simpler polled 81,890 votes and so did Barney:

               Candidate          Simpler        Barney

               Wilmington            3,299           9,956

               Suburban NCC    55,401        57,440

               Kent County        23,190         14,494

               Subtotal               81,890         81,890

               Sussex County     41,215        18,328

               Statewide           123,105       100,218

Simpler surged ahead in Sussex County. He beat Barney by 22,887 votes, the identical margin Simpler also won statewide.

"It shows the importance and the relevance of Sussex County," Schwartzkopf said.

Simpler was always expected to do well in Sussex, the most conservative of the three counties, but who would have figured the rest of the state would be a tie?

"It's unreal, isn't it?" Schwartzkopf said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."