Delaware’s 2008 Election, Unopposed Races, Term Limits

Posted: 07/30/2008 by that's Elbert in Delaware, election, government, opinions, Politics, Sussex County
Tags: ,

The filing date for public office in Delaware has now passed, and we now have a clear picture of the candidate list for the fall. Probably the most exciting races will be the Sussex County Council races where residents will see a serious change in leadership I’ve not seen in my lifetime. Even if the incumbents had ran for another term, I believe that Jud Bennett would have secured the First District seat he lost by three votes four years ago, which by itself would have shifted the balance of power in the council to the Republicans. At the risk of sounding cocky, I feel confident that the Republicans will pick up a minimum of two of the three seats if not all three. This type of arrangement would give them at minimum a 4-1 advantage on the council.

In my neck of the woods, I am represented by Biff Lee, the 40th District Representative, and Bob Venables, the 21st District Senator. Both of these gentlemen have held their seats for a while, and they will be on the ballots in the fall unopposed. Both of these gentlemen have done a good job for my area. At the risk of getting flack from some friends I am particularly happy with Bob Venables’ service this past legislative session. He has supported voting rights, property owner’s rights, and regularly stands on the right side of social issues.

My kind words toward my Dover representatives will probably puzzle some friends, as they are aware of my views regarding two things: unopposed candidates and term limits.

Candidates running unopposed could say one of two things. First, it could say that an overwelming majority of the representatives’ area are very happy with the job done by their representative. Second, it could say due to the power of the incumency potential leaders in the district don’t want to waste their time or money in a race they will most likely loose. In both cases, those who are unhappy with their representative have no voice outside of not pushing the button for the unopposed candidate or writing in a candidate. Maybe that’s the way things have to be, and really nothing can be done about it. Certainly it is my tendency to favor underdogs that probably stirs my thoughts on this subject, even if, in my opinion, the underdog is wrong.

Term limits have had some level of support for a while, reaching a peak during the 1994 Republican Revolution where it was one of the ten items in the Contract With America. I support the idea of term limits because it forces a change in leadership periodically, thus bringing fresh blood to the legislative bodies. It brings about a large pool of leaders needed in any party if that party wishes to easily find candidates to run for the many positions in the state, counties, cities, and towns. There are some negatives to term limits. It won’t eliminate the career politician, as it wouldn’t restrict those that wished to run for another office after their term in their current position expires. It may also force out those elected officials who do a good job, but in balance it would force out those that aren’t doing the job well. We have term limits on our governor and President, why not for other elected officials?

To stir conversation on the subject, or at least stir your thinking, here is an idea I have bounced around, if nowhere else at least in my head. Let’s have a term limit of 3 terms for all elected officials, not counting abbreviated terms, such as a mid-term election in the case of an elected official unable to complete their term. To possibly provide a compromise, allow for a “cooling off period”, allowing that person to run for the seat again after sitting out a minimum of 1 term. In addition, upon passage of the legislation, allow the term limits to come in effect 10 years later. At that point, provide for the leadership in place to have their term counter reset to “0”. Maybe this wouldn’t be a hard core term limits package, but it would allow for some turnover in the leadership pool in the future.

More than likely some will see this post as a condemnation of current leadership. I am simply offering ideas for change in our current system, allowing for development of the leadership pool and bringing some fresh blood into our state and local governments, encouraging more people to be involved in the political process. The term limits idea even allows for those in current leadership to probably be unaffected by the legislation, as it wouldn’t come into full effect until at least anywhere from 16 to 24 years after it’s passage, depending on the length of their office’s term. In the State House, you would see the effect in 16 years. In the State Senate, the effect would be in full at either 22 years or 24 years, basically making the Senate change milder than the House.

Well, actually I have probably made the hardcore term limits folks mad for my compromise, and I have angered those in current leadership for suggesting a limit on their service time. Sometimes ideas have that effect, don’t they? Gosh, am I sounding like a politician??

To see the list of candidates for Sussex County, follow this link.

  1. Paul Smith says:

    Don’t forget that the parties can still nominate people to fill vacant ballot positions until September 2nd (I think). The ballot is likely not complete.

  2. It actually sounds well thought out. it would be a great compromise for those already in office, because all the old farts will be out of office by the time it comes into effect and they’ll be looking forward to retirement anyway.

    Having the limits for the house sets up candidates for the senate when those limits come into play.

    You have the potential for a candidate to be in the leg hall for six years in the house, and 18 in the senate (is it 6 or 4 years for state senate?) and I’d say a 20 year career as a Leg Hall politician is a very mild term limit.

    If the politician was popular, and particularly good at his/her job, they would, by then, be a candidate for congress or governor by then.

    It would be enough of a limit to allow the limits to be put in place, which is a start.

  3. Brian, it’s 4 years in the state Senate. Yes, that’s sort of what I was thinking about, setting up a pool of candidates for other state offices. Even in my term limit plan, you may still have those that stay in Dover but serve in different roles.

    I talked about my term limit ideas with a friend who pointed out that my idea about a “cool off” period isn’t completely foreign. Some church boards have a similar “term limit” where they are forced to take a break every three years.

  4. In northern DE, my Senate district (11th) and House district (26th) are both unchallenged this year as well. I’m in the process of talking with the Republican leadership about challenging the incumbent House Representative myself.

  5. […] end, but the only support I have ever seen regarding term limits is among conservatives. I wrote a post which contained my rough ideas on term limits for Delaware (there is a static page in the works […]