Posted: Feb. 16, 2016
THE HOTTEST SEAT IN THE STATE HOUSE
By Celia Cohen
Bryon Short, one of the Democrats running for the congressional seat, is giving up a nine-year stint as a state representative to do it, and what is the reaction?
Barely even a reflexive thank-you-for-your-legislative-service. More like don't-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out.
Short's state representative district -- the 7th in Brandywine Hundred under Delaware's northern arc with Claymont and Arden in it -- is rocking. Already three candidates, all of them Democrats, have filed for the primary election on Sept. 13, and there is no reason to think others might not get in.
As of now, it is the only action in the 2016 elections for the state House of Representatives, where all 41 seats are up. This is different from the state Senate, where 11 of 21 seats are up and the Republicans are mustering to try to end the Democratic majority after 43 years.
It has the 7th Representative District really standing out, and the scramble is understandable.
Legislative openings can be hard to come by. There were only two voluntary walkaways in 2014, along with a mid-term resignation in 2015, although another four legislators made their own openings in 2014 by ousting incumbents.
As an ex-legislator once waggishly put it, there are two types of legislators who will not be back -- the ones who know it and the ones who do not.
So far, Short is the only legislator who knows he will not be back. This also sets him apart from three other legislators running for higher office, because they are all state senators tucked inside the security blanket of four-year terms -- including Bryan Townsend, a Democrat competing with Short in the four-way congressional primary along with Sean Barney and Lisa Blunt Rochester.
Short is leaving behind what should be a safe Democratic seat. He is arguably the reason it is.
For years and years, the district was reliably Republican, but it was put in play in 2007 when Wayne Smith, then the Republican majority leader, resigned mid-term to run a health care trade association, and Short snatched the seat for the Democrats in a special election.
By the time the legislature redistricted itself before the 2012 election, the Democrats were in charge of the state House, and they padded the registration rolls with more of their own voters to try to ensure they would keep the seat. When Short first won in 2007, there were 500 more Republican than Democratic voters, but now there are 3,400 more Democratic than Republican voters.
This would explain why the Democrats already have a primary under way but the Republicans have yet to field a candidate. "It would be extremely challenging for a Republican to win in that district the way it is now," Short said.
Regardless of the registration, Smith thinks the Republicans ought to find someone to run for the seat he once held and not concede the race. "Particularly this year. The national debates on both sides are telling you the electorate is roiled," he said.
The Democratic candidates -- Dave Brady, Rob Cameron and Joe Daigle -- all come to the primary with party credentials.
Brady, a retired teacher who lives in Claymont, was a state representative for 20 years until 2002, when he was combined with Smith in redistricting and lost their race.
Cameron, a Vietnam-era veteran who is a design engineer in the defense industry, is from Ashbourne Hills, a huge 600-home neighborhood where he is the civic association president, and sits on the local Democratic committee.
Daigle, who lives near Arden and works in policy and procedure for J.P. Morgan/Chase, was once the drum major at the University of Delaware and is stepping down as the president of the Stonewall Democrats, the organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender party members, to run.
The biggest differentiation among them is generational. Brady at 78 is from the Silent Generation. Cameron is a Baby Boomer who just turned 60. Daigle is a 26-year-old Millennial.
Short, by the way, is a Generation X-er who will be 50 next month. So thank him for his legislative service and sing him "Happy Birthday" as he evades the door on his way out.