Rep. Melanie George Smith not seeking ninth term

 

DOVER — Rep. Melanie George Smith, a Bear Democrat who has served as the co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee for the past five years, announced Thursday she is not running for a ninth term.

Accompanied by her family, she made the announcement on the House floor and thanked every representative by name, afterward receiving a standing ovation.

First elected in 2002, Rep. George Smith is one of the longest-serving members of the House of Representatives. As the House chair of JFC, she holds substantial power, helping shape the annual state budget.

Calling her time in the General Assembly “one of the greatest honors” she has ever had, Rep. George Smith said she wanted to spend more time with her husband and two young children and planned to begin working full time.

“As you all know, having children changes you,” she told those assembled in the House chamber. “More than just my waistline, no time to style hair and clothes patterned with snot and saliva on them, it has given more a whole new set of priorities, most especially the well-being of my family.

“I feel so blessed that I have the privilege of serving the public for as many years as I have, but I now have a wonderful opportunity at Richards, Layton and Finger, where I’ve spent nearly 20 years as an attorney.”

She was the subject of controversy several months ago when it was revealed she had sold her house and purchased one outside the district. New Castle County records show her house on Calvarese Drive in Bear was sold in September, 13 months after she bought a home on Amaranth Drive in Newark.

Rep. Melanie George Smith

That residence is in the 23rd Representative District, a seat currently held by Rep. Paul Baumbach, a Newark Democrat.

Voter records indicate Rep. George Smith’s husband is living in the Amaranth Drive home. Rep. George Smith’s voter identification lists her residence as a townhouse on South Tribbit Avenue in Bear, which is in the 5th Representative District.

The townhome is not listed in her name, according to New Castle County property records. Rep. George Smith previously told the State News she was renting the townhouse and provided a copy of a lease. The rental agreement was for one year and states she began living there in September, one day before her Bear house was officially sold.

The daughter of former Delaware Technical Community College President Orlando George, himself an ex-state representative, she has faced an electoral opponent only once. In 2002, when the district was created, Ms. George Smith and one other person ran for the Democratic nomination. Ms. George Smith was victorious, collecting 92 percent of the vote.

She has not been opposed in any primary or general election since.

With 10,800 registered Democrats out of 16,000 voters, the district has a strong left lean. In fact, only four representative districts are more Democratic by percentage of registered voters.

Democrats Yutonya Deneice Berry and Kendra Johnson both formed committees this month to seek the 5th Representative District seat. Rep. George Smith said she has not decided if she will endorse someone.

Rep. George Smith teared up at one point in her speech, and she was praised by several of her colleagues afterward.

“I grew up here in Legislative Hall,” Rep. George Smith said. “As children, my sisters and I used to sneak candy from (the) candy dish. As a teenager, I served as a page, getting coffee for representatives, typing up letters and stuffing envelopes. After law school, I served as a House attorney. … I ran for office 16 years ago. It feels like yesterday.”

Afterward, she characterized leaving the General Assembly as “bittersweet” but said she looks forward to being with her children more frequently. Asked what she viewed as her main accomplishments in office, she declined to name any specific legislation, instead pointing to working with other lawmakers and developing friendships.

She was the main sponsor of a 2013 measure legalizing same-sex marriage.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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