Delaware Republican Party director set to leave post

DOVER — The Delaware Republican Party’s executive director says it’s time for some “new blood.”

John Fluharty has held the position for about 3½ years. He previously had announced his plans to leave the party post at the end of the month to pursue other opportunities.

“I believe a position like this, when anyone stays too long, you don’t get fresh and new ideas that a state party needs,” he said.

During his tenure, the party made some gains. While the state remains a Democratic one, Republican officials are confident that is set to shift.

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John Fluharty

Emphasizing he was just a part in efforts by many voters, candidates and officials, Mr. Fluharty characterized the Republican party as being on the upswing. Not only is it able to attract more candidates, those challengers are more prepared, he said.

The party has been able to raise more money and gain grass-roots support, something Delaware Republican Chairman Charlie Copeland credited in part to Mr. Fluharty’s background on the national stage. Before coming to Delaware, he worked on the 2012 presidential campaign of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and was with national Republican organizations.

“I had certain goals when I took the job and we’ve made those goals,” Mr. Fluharty said.

Perhaps the biggest was the election of a non-incumbent statewide Republican for the first time in 20 years. Ken Simpler won the treasurer’s race in 2014, giving the Republicans two of nine statewide seats after four years of holding just one.

It’s that 2014 election Mr. Fluharty points to as perhaps his proudest accomplishment.

Not only did Mr. Simpler win by about 10 points, the incumbent auditor Tom Wagner, a Republican, won despite being outspent nearly 12 to 1.

That, Mr. Fluharty and others believe, indicates the Republican party has recovered from its 2010 fracture. That’s when, in Mr. Fluharty’s words, “ideological purity” won the day. Tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell upset establishment favorite U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in the Senate primary before losing in the general election.

After going through the crisis of ideology versus electability, the party has regained its footing, Mr. Fluharty said.

Mr. Copeland, who has been the chairman for about 2½ years, agreed. He noted the party has become better at appealing to voters, attracting support and preparing candidates.

“He’s helped us create a much larger and more robust party than we had before he got here,” he said of Mr. Fluharty.

Some conflict over same-sex marriage did briefly arise between some Republicans and Mr. Fluharty, who is gay and supports same-sex marriage.

Today, the executive director minimizes that and touts the party’s chances in 2016. Many Delawareans have become frustrated with the economy, he said. He argues that the state, which has been controlled largely by Democrats for more than two decades, has not taken steps forward. He singled out the state’s recent budget issues as an example.

As for his next move, Mr. Fluharty has not yet settled on any future plans. Mr. Copeland is still in the process of looking for a new executive director.

While Mr. Fluharty is a proud supporter of the overall Republican platform and has relished his time in politics, he also has remained focused on larger things, he said.

“I can leave the office and go out and have soda pop with a Democrat and it’s not personal,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re all trying to do the same thing and make Delaware a better place. We just have different views on how to do that.”

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