Bushweller not seeking re-election to Delaware Senate

DOVER — Sen. Brian Bushweller, a Dover Democrat, will not be seeking a fourth term representing the 17th Senatorial District next year. With Democrats holding a one-seat margin over Republicans, the announcement gives the GOP a better chance of capturing the majority in the chamber for the first time since 1973.

Sen. Bushweller broke the news Wednesday in a letter in which he said he wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Brian Bushweller

“This was not an easy decision. It has been a great honor for me to represent the people of the 17th District, and I will cherish that honor for the rest of my life,” he wrote. “I have developed relationships with people and organizations in the 17th that have been both productive and personally rewarding and satisfying.

“The fact is, the 17th District is blessed with many, many very good people who work hard every day to make our communities the great places they are. I hope that my service may have added a little something to their efforts.

“I want to thank all my constituents who, over the years, have shared their thoughts, opinions and concerns on the many issues that have come before the General Assembly. Obviously, not everyone had the same opinion but I always tried hard to listen carefully and to seek out the positions that best represented the people of the 17th.

“Needless to say, there is still a full year remaining before I actually leave the Senate, and I am committed to working hard each and every day to give my constituents the representation they deserve. I encourage all residents of the district to continue to contact me about matters of concern.”

Sen. Bushweller, 71, was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2014. He had previous experience working in and with state government, serving as then Gov. Tom Carper’s legislative liaison from 1993 to 1998, when he was nominated and confirmed as secretary of what is now called the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

After 2000, he followed the governor to the U.S. Senate, assisting him as state director until 2007.

He is currently the chairman of the Senate Banking, Business & Insurance Committee and, owing to his status as one of two Democratic senators in the state’s two southernmost counties, is the only lawmaker serving on both the Joint Finance and Capital Improvement committees.

Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, in a statement praised Sen. Bushweller for an “unwavering commitment to his constituents and to enhancing the quality of life of everyone who called Delaware home.”

Sen. Bushweller said in an interview he did consider the narrow control Democrats hold over the Senate as he weighed retirement but is confident a Democrat will be elected to follow him.

A little more than half of the 31,000 registered voters in the district are Democrats, making it the most heavily Democratic district located entirely below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

The 17th District covers Dover, Camden and Wyoming and is the smallest Senate district by area in Kent and Sussex counties.

The senator said he is “inclined to not jump the gun” in endorsing a successor and will wait to see who ends up filing for the office over the next 10 months before choosing whether to publicly back anyone.

Asked what he viewed as his main accomplishments, Sen. Bushweller cited helping the DE Turf in Frederica get off the ground, as well as pushing for the redevelopment of North Street, including the creation of Loockerman Way Plaza.

His biggest point of pride, he said, is regularly communicating with and working alongside nonprofits dedicated to bettering Kent County, such as the Greater Kent Committee, Downtown Dover Partnership and Delaware State University.

A strong supporter of Delaware’s three casinos, he has over the past three years unsuccessfully pushed for legislation that would provide relief to the establishments. Dover Downs is located in his district.

“I have one big disappointment — happily only one — but that’s my inability to have properly educated the General Assembly to the damage that we have done to one of Kent County’s major industries and major employers, and that’s the casino industry,” he said.

The state Senate has already seen considerable turnover in recent years: 10 of the 21 members were elected in 2012 or later, and Sen. Bushweller’s decision will add another to that list.

Four other members of the chamber up for re-election in 2018 will be at least 70 by then, meaning further retirements could follow Sen. Bushweller.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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