Delawareans share their top issues as they visit the polls


Happy Election Day.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day in the First State.

Look for intermittent clouds, a high of 60 degrees and a low of 42 degrees.

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Milford voters talk

The Milford High School polling station was seeing a steady, if not continuous, influx of voters through its doors Tuesday afternoon.

Milford resident Yolanda Soto brought her daughter, Nylah Soto, with her to witness the process.

“I told her, you know, before when Black people came out to vote, you might have to count how many pieces of candy was in a jar and different stuff like that,” she said, referencing a Jim Crow-era tactic to prevent Black people from casting ballots. “So I said, anytime there’s a vote, we need to be out there letting our voices be heard.”

Ms. Soto said education is the most important issue for her, followed by jobs and better, more affordable housing. With respect to schools, she said there needs to be a reset about how the issue of race is discussed. For starters, a greater emphasis on learning the historic contributions of people of different backgrounds could be an inspiration to young people, she said.

“Honest conversations are difficult,” she added. “When we don’t properly educate our kids, they get the wrong interpretations or stereotypes about certain groups of people that aren’t true.”

On his way out to the parking lot, Carl White of Milford named the economy, the border and “out-of-control spending” as three top topics for him.

“And the fact that the Democrat Party has allowed itself to be taken over by the Communist Party,” he said.

Mr. White was among many Milford residents who brought up political polarization.

For Angela Winchester, it is the GOP that is on the wrong side of several issues significant to her, including abortion rights and the treatment of transgender people.

“They’re going back to the way it was back in the 1950s,” she said. “They’re taking a lot of our female rights away. I mean, women no longer have a say over what’s going on with their bodies in most of the country, and that’s not right.”

Carol Heimbach and Michael C. Scott both said they voted across party lines Tuesday.

Ms. Heimbach placed emphasis on the local, down-ballot contests that get less recognition.

“I think we owe it to our communities to pay more attention” to those, she said. “Because, eventually, all of that, you know, works its way to the White House.”

Asked for ideas on how to heal partisan divisions, Mr. Scott said, “People accept the results, roll with it and move forward, you know? I just pray that the country comes together, so we can be one strong country,” he said.

Democrats visit Dover polls

At East Dover Elementary School, voters were greeted by several incumbent Democratic lawmakers Tuesday.

Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, and Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, were part of the state Senate contingency traveling to support fellow Democrats on the ballot in key districts. At East Dover Elementary, the duo joined Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, in support of these candidates, which included 32nd Representative District contender Kerri Evelyn Harris, also in attendance.

As voters were greeted by the group, Ms. Harris said she could “feel the excitement in the air” among those who “braved the unexpected cold to complete their civic duty.” As traffic remained consistent at the school during the early afternoon, she noted she was “beyond appreciative” of citizens who voted for her, as well as thankful for lawmakers who extended their support prior to and on Election Day.

“It means a lot to have that support. I’ve worked really hard to make sure that folks both on the inside and outside know that I’m committed to the people,” Ms. Harris said. “To have members of my community here with me and members of our legislative body, it means a lot. It’s just a testament to being true to who you are but also being true to the people, and when you do that, folks will keep showing up.”

She added that she is “extremely thankful” residents took time to cast ballots “regardless of who they were voting for because voting is a very important thing to participate in.”

For Dover voter Alfred Bates, the motivation was “No. 1, the economy.” While he was concerned about potential delays at the ballot box, the experience ended up going smoothly.

“I was surprised,” Mr. Bates said. “I went right in, (the poll workers) did what they had to do, I cast my vote, and I was done. It was quick.”

In Camden, at Caesar Rodney High School, voters visited the ballot box for a number of reasons.

One of Katie Young’s priorities was voting for U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was being challenged by Republican Lee Murphy for Delaware’s at-large seat. Ms. Young noted that she wished more Democrats were on the ballot, as several races in Kent County saw Republicans void of a Democratic opponent. Ultimately, though, her decision came down to the issues facing the country as a whole.

“I would say definitely women’s health and protecting voter rights were my main things,” she said. “I’m not really liking where we’re heading as a country, and I feel the best I can do right now is to focus on my local elections, do my research and participate.”

William McVay of Dover had a busy Election Day reaching out to voters about the state’s newest political party, Non-Partisan Delaware, and urging support for its candidates. Mr. McVay is a member of the party’s Governing Board and was running on the party’s ticket in the 34th House District. He visited Caesar Rodney High to cast a vote for himself but had more in store for his party.

“After this, I’m heading down to Sussex County to support Joe DiPasquale,” Mr. McVay said. “Mr. DiPasquale is very concerned about the environment down there, but his opponent, Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro), was quoted recently, saying that he’s OK with global warming because it makes his corn yields bigger.”

While Mr. McVay said he did not expect his party’s contenders to win every race, he was hopeful that voters, and politicians, would become aware of Non-Partisan Delaware.

Cheswold site busy

Brisk winds and chilly fall temperatures were not enough to keep voters away Election Day morning at Cheswold Volunteer Fire Co.

Cheswold resident Max Amoako walked down the street with his children in tow, eager to be with their father as he cast his votes.

Mr. Amoako said it was important to show them the obligation they will have in the future.

“My daughter already knows. The next election she’s going to be 10, so she’s keeping up with it,” he said. “I want her to know their civic duty.”

When it comes to voting, Mr. Amoako said family comes first.

“To me, it’s family values — taking care of the family and education. The coronavirus had to do with (the inflation), and we’re going to get out of it. I think everything is going to be stable, and we’re just going to have to have the right people in office.”

Debbie Faust of Dover was impressed at the number of voters headed to the polls in Cheswold on Tuesday morning.

She said the most important election issues to her are the economy and getting more out of her paycheck.

“I think the economy has got to be it,” Ms. Faust said. “Inflation is just out of control, I think. The economy is definitely the No. 1 issue for me.”

The scene in Little Creek

Count James McClements as someone who believes in the voting process.

The Little Creek resident moved quickly in and out of his polling place at the Little Creek Volunteer Fire Co. on Tuesday, then departed in his truck to get on with the rest of his day.

Before leaving, Mr. McClements described his worry-free experience.

“There was an ID check as soon as you go in,” he said. “That gives you your printout ticket, and then, you go in and put it in the machine and vote for everybody that you want.

“It prints out your ticket before you can (leave), so you can see ... everyone that you voted for on there. And then, when you push the cast button, you’re guaranteed everybody you voted for is on there.”

He continued, “It was very easy, convenient. I might have been here a total of three minutes and got my voting all done. You know, if you don’t get out and cast your vote, you don’t have the right to complain tomorrow.”

Before she voted, Dover-area resident Sherri Harrell stood outside the fire company with a sign advocating for her candidate of choice.

“I’m excited to be here and be part of the process of getting to have a choice,” she said. “That’s exciting no matter which way it goes. It’s energizing. It gives us hope, and you can’t give any more than that.”

While Ms. Harrell said the voter turnout had been a bit less than she expected, “it’s good that the people here seem to be excited, as well.”

Voting help available

Back at East Dover Elementary School, Common Cause Delaware representative Sean Dwyer stood idly with another member of the nonpartisan Election Protection movement. Their mission was to assist voters in navigating the process, if needed.

There were no significant lines at the school, however, and no confusion about polling places or registration, he said.

“But it’s only 11 in the morning,” he quipped.

Mr. Dwyer, who organized the 30 participants set to visit 12 or so locations throughout the state, said he expected the largest turnout of voters early in the morning, then during lunchtime and just before the polls were to close. Volunteers arrived to sites around 6:45 a.m. and planned to monitor them throughout the day, as available, he said.

His representatives were scheduled to appear in Wilmington, Pike Creek, Dover, Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Georgetown and Seaford, he said.

And as for crowds, “It’s been light in the (Dover and Wilmington) areas I’ve been to.”

Tuesday was a family day for Victoria Camper, who drove her mother to the school after voting herself at the Little Creek Volunteer Fire Co. She got it right this time — after redistricting, she went to the wrong location during the September primary.

Regardless, Ms. Camper said it is crucial to vote.

“The most important thing we can do as a part of this democracy is to say what we need to say,” she said. “We don’t always agree on everything, but we should all (have the) conversation.”

Ms. Camper’s mother, Linda Blowey, stood nearby and said she wants individuals in office “who are going to look at the everyday person and actually do something when we have a concern.”

“There are so many issues right now that I feel are in jeopardy of being constrained or gotten rid of that I’m extremely concerned.”

Down in Sussex

Tuesday’s weather shift also ushered in a brisk turnout at several polling sites in central Sussex County.

In keeping with the area’s tradition as a Republican stronghold, most voters polled at the Millsboro Fire Co. were deeply concerned about the direction the state and country is heading.

“I voted straight the Republican ticket,” said Dan Hosley, who placed his ballot with his wife, Mary Hosley. “Get some balance back in government. I think life for us is pretty good, irrespective of government intervention.”

And the Hosleys would like to keep it that way.

“You need balance,” he said.

“And there is none,” Ms. Hosley added.

In addition to statewide offices and one federal seat, the ballot in Millsboro included races for the new 4th District state House of Representatives spot (Democrat Keegan Worley, Independent Party of Delaware’s Amy Fresh and Republican Jeff Hilovsky) and the District 5 County Council race between Democratic challenger Billy Edwards and Republican incumbent John Rieley.

“Locally, Sussex County, what was on my mind most was unregulated overgrowth,” said Millsboro resident Mary Anderson. “I think we need somebody to represent the 5th District that will take that a bit more seriously than the existing incumbent, John Rieley. I did vote for Billy.”

Ms. Anderson, who voted absentee due to uncertainty about a medical condition, chose other Democratic candidates, including U.S. House incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester, who faced a Republican challenge from Lee Murphy.

“I think she works for the people. Sussex County doesn’t always have politicians from upstate or from Washington come to Sussex County. Lisa Blunt Rochester is here all the time. She is in touch with the people,” said Ms. Anderson, who was surprised by the steady flow of voters at the Millsboro Town Center. “I wasn’t expecting this many voters because we had so much early voting.”

President Joe Biden’s policies were in direct crosshairs of some GOP voters Tuesday.
Millsboro resident Ratrina Harrison voted at the firehall on her way home from an overnight shift in the medical field.

“The economy is crazy,” she said. “I work with seniors who can’t afford their medication, which is unbelievable that they worked all their lives and can’t afford medication.”

Michael Kay, 81, also of Millsboro, shared similar concern as he prepared to vote.

“I’m thinking about the economy, among other things. Also, the state of our democracy here in the United States. I’m concerned about that,” said Mr. Kay, whose four-and-a-half-year U.S. Navy service included submarine duty aboard the USS Ethan Allen.

Doug Duer, who noted that rising inflation and gas prices are taking bites out of family budgets, voted straight Republican.

“I have very seldom ... ever done that before, but I did it today,” said Mr. Duer, a retiree who works part time at Redner’s in Georgetown. “You know that old quote from the 1980s, ‘Is the economy stupid’? It’s at the forefront. It’s food and fuel. When you are a senior, you want to keep your house, and you want food on the table.”

He went on to criticize President Biden for these economic woes.

“I keep up with the wholesale fuel prices, crude oil prices on the commodities market, and things are bad,” Mr. Duer said. “What I don’t understand is why we would go ahead and drain the strategic petroleum reserves. ... It is not only a threat to national security, it is an existential threat to the United States because we have no military readiness to speak of like we used to have. We have no strategic petroleum reserves, and that’s a recipe for somebody to come in there and eat our lunch.

“I mean, do I think it’s going to happen? Certainly not. We’re certainly a strong nation, even today. But people will take advantage of us around the world.”

Millsboro voter Don Starkey agreed.

“First off, the closure of those pipelines, which affected gasoline prices, was not necessary, and it has caused a ripple effect throughout our whole country. It has put people out of work and takes money out of my pocketbook. Being retired, I have to be careful on my expenditures,” he said, adding that he also condemns the current administration’s open-border policy. “The open-border policy has flooded this country and murdered our young people with fentanyl.”

Mr. Starkey added that the state of the U.S. economy has adversely impacted his son, who is self-employed.

“Because of this inflation, my son has had to lay off the lesser worker,” he said. “Biden’s policies are affecting everybody. They just forget who pays the bills, and it is the American taxpayer.”

Smyrna seat up for grabs

Meanwhile, at Smyrna Elementary School, Mark Pugh, a Republican candidate for the state Senate’s 14th District, was out front shaking hands and talking to voters, as they headed to the polls around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Pugh was running against Democrat Kyra Hoffner for the seat being vacated by the retiring Bruce Ennis, who has served as the Smyrna-area senator since 2007.

The businessman, who campaigned at several other stops throughout the day, said he felt voter turnout was customarily lower Tuesday since it was a midterm election.

“Certainly, the voter turnout at this point has been rather low; however, we do like the people that we’re seeing coming in,” he said. “They’re very engaging, which typically is a good sign, when they look you in the eye and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to vote for you.’ That’s a very good sign.

“While the numbers are down just a little bit right now, they’re typical of a midterm election.”

Voter Iris Orellana, a new resident of Smyrna, said every election is crucial, but this one might be more significant when it comes to issues such as the economy. She cast her ballot at Smyrna Elementary on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s important to vote, so that (politicians) listen to the people,” she said. “The economy and money is very important because everything is inflated. A lot of people are homeless, and they can’t afford to get by on living expenses and all that.

“Everybody has to get out here and vote — that’s important.”

Mr. Pugh said that, to solve other issues, the state needs to concentrate on improving education.

“Inflation is a big thing, as is education — quality education. We’re ranked 24th in this country,” he said. “That’s just not even close to being good enough. If we want to get inflation under control, if we want to get manufacturing back here in Delaware, the main thing we have to do is get our education system straightened out.”

Seaford and western Sussex
With no Sussex County Council terms at stake in 2022, mid-term election voters in Seaford and western Sussex County had a few less ballot choices Tuesday.

The focus was on state and federal government.

Belinda Savage and Taylor Solem both voted Republican, pointing to the country’s present status.

“The world has gone crazy,” said Ms. Savage.

Issues that swayed her vote included the price of gas and food, and children’s education.

“And not only that, but safety. I’m a security guard. So, it’s safety for everyone,” said Ms. Savage.

Her support went to 39th District Representative incumbent Danny Short, incumbent Bryant Richardson for the 21st Senate District and challenger Lee Murphy for U.S. Congress.
Mr. Solem, who in the past year moved to Seaford from Denton, Maryland, said it’s really a combination.

“The economy, the gun laws, all of that,” he said. “Definitely with the economy. Even to fill the truck up, it’s $130 just for a regular tank of gas. And diesel (fuel) is no joke.”

Sheila Fogg initially showed up to vote at City Hall. However, like several others, she was told her voting site was Seaford Middle School. She planned to take the Democratic Party route, voting for Susan Clifford for state representative and incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester for U.S. Congress.

“Susan Clifford, she is amazing. I am a strong believer in helping people, helping the homeless, helping the hungry and helping people that are being singled out and discriminated against,” said Ms. Fogg. “Susan has got a strong perspective on what to do. I trust in her.”

“And I’m thinking Lisa (Blunt Rochester). It’s a women’s thing this year. It’s a girls’ thing,” Ms. Fogg said. “I wish everybody well but I am going to go for who I think is the best representative for the state of Delaware.”

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