Posted: April 2, 2004


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Lynn Mangene Betts won a spirited but civil election between two longtime mainstays of the Sussex County Democratic Party on Thursday evening, becoming the chair of the organization as it looks for a comeback this campaign season.

Betts outpolled Janet "Petie" Adams 50-37 in a vote at Delaware Technical & Community College in Georgetown. Charles P. West, a former state representative who has been raising a racket off and on in county politics since the 1950s, also threw his name in but received only five votes.

Betts will serve as the chair until next March, finishing out the four-year term of Thelma Monroe, who stepped aside last month when Gov. Ruth Ann Minner appointed her Sussex County clerk of the peace after the death of D. Ray Ellerman.

Betts, a Seaford Democrat, assumed the party's top post in the county after serving as the chair of the 39th Representative District. "We've got a whole lot of work to do," she said. "It's my hope to pull us all together."

She started doing it herself as soon as the votes were counted by embracing Adams, a former county vice chair. "Petie, we need you. You're one of the best campaign chairs around," Betts said.

There was joking at the meeting that the party was lucky to have three people willing to run. The Sussex Democrats are coming off a thumping from the 2002 election, when the Republicans won seven out of eight representative districts and ousted two incumbents. The Democrats held the seats of their three senators, but it was the representative races that stung.

Betts promised to work to turn the party's fortunes around and suggested it could be done by coordinating the efforts of the county's 15 Democratic clubs.

"We've been so splintered, doing all different things," she said. "This is real important. Unity can't trickle down. It doesn't work that way."