Bridgeville area state representative facing a challenger in GOP primary

DOVER — Bob Mitchell says the state is running itself into the ground with excessive spending.

Unless something is done soon, tax increases will be unavoidable, he warns.

Bob Mitchell

Bob Mitchell

Mr. Mitchell, 48, is facing Rep. David Wilson in a Sept. 13 Republican primary for the right to represent the 35th Representative District, which covers northwest Sussex County, including Bridgeville.

No other Republican lawmaker has a primary challenge this year.

“The main purpose for me running is to help bring or restore fiscal responsibility to our state,” said the first-time office-seeker.

He believes the state government — for many years run by Democrats — is spending too much, stretching itself thin and raising the potential for Delaware to find itself in a position where the only way to quickly balance the budget is by increasing taxes.

It’s a simmering “witch’s brew” just waiting to boil over, he said.

Mr. Mitchell pointed to the state’s $2 billion debt as a potential omen and noted the hundreds of millions of dollars that Delaware generates annually from abandoned property has been called into question by a court.

As of the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, the state had about $1.9 billion in general debt. In June, a U.S. District Court judge issued a ruling criticizing many practices used by the state to collect revenue from unclaimed assets, raising the specter of that revenue source decreasing.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

“All state debt is is a promise to raise taxes in the future instead of dealing with the fiscal reality of today,” Mr. Mitchell said.

He sees the state’s spending and debt as the main issues, saying should a financial crisis arrive “who marries who is going to become much less important to people.”

A longtime worker in the financial field, he also takes issue with Rep. Wilson receiving $392,000 from the state to preserve two farms he owns.

In 2013, the state purchased, as part of the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program, development rights on 185 acres co-owned by Rep. Wilson.

Mr. Mitchell has criticized the incumbent for not recusing himself from the vote on the bond bill, which allocated $477 million across the state, mostly for construction projects, in 2013.

Elected officials should be held to a “higher standard,” Mr. Mitchell insists.

In an August letter to the editor, Rep. Wilson, who could not be reached for comment, called Mr. Mitchell’s focus on the purchase “disgraceful campaigning” based on “unfounded innuendo.”

“To summarize, the General Assembly has no role in picking which farms are selected for permanent preservation,” Rep. Wilson wrote. “Selections are approved by an independent board through a competitive process that favors those property owners who are willing to sell their permanent development rights for the lowest value. My family’s two farms were selected three years ago because we aggressively discounted the properties’ development rights.

“For our family, the decision was an easy one. We are all getting older, and those properties have been in our family for a long time, in one case for more than four generations. Both are reasonably attractive for development. We wanted to ensure that whoever next owns these farms will plant crops and not houses. We were more than willing to sell our development rights for just 36 cents on the dollar to make that happen.

“My participation in the Farmland Preservation Program in 2013 has been transparent and well-documented. Details are posted online, as they are for the hundreds of other Delaware farm families that have taken part.”

Forty-three farms were selected for preservation that year, with an average discount of 61 percent for each property compared to its worth.

While Mr. Mitchell has attacked his opponent for his role in the state debt increasing, Rep. Wilson has had a conservative voting record since winning the seat in 2010. He did not have an opponent in 2014.

The winner of the primary will face off against Democrat Gary Wolfe in the November general election.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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