Schaeffer won’t face rematch as Burton declines write-in

Sussex County District 3 Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton was outpolled by 44 votes by challenger Mark Schaeffer in the Sept 15 Republican primary election. A grass-roots initiative is urging Mr. Burton to consider a write-in declaration for the Nov. 3 General Election. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

LEWES — It appears there won’t be a write-in effort so Republican primary winner Mark Schaeffer will not face a rematch with Irwin “I.G.” Burton III in November’s General Election for the District 3 Sussex County Council seat.

Mr. Burton, who fell 44 votes short in the Sept. 15 Republican primary, informed supporters he will not pursue the write-in route, despite a wave of online support through a Change.org petition that drew more 500 signatures.

Lewes resident Patti Drago initiated the petition campaign – Write It in: We Need IG Burton!

“He (Mr. Burton) has decided not to pursue the seat as a write-in candidate,” Ms. Drago said Friday.

“A heartfelt thank you for your signature and encouragement to I.G.,” the petition stated Sept. 17. “I.G. decided this morning (Sept. 17) not to pursue the 3rd district seat as a write-in candidate. We thanked him for his professionalism, persistence, work ethic, open door, and compassion, and all that he has set in motion during his tenure.”

The petition statement continues: “We are certainly disappointed by this news, but it is crucial that we not lose sight of all the good work-in-progress that risks coming to a dead stop with this county council transition — initiatives that focus on common community issues that affect each and every resident and business owner regardless of political affiliation.”

Reached Saturday afternoon, Mr. Schaeffer, who outpolled Mr. Burton 3,164 to 3,120 in Tuesday’s primary election said, ‘That’s what I understand, that he (Burton) has no interest in pursuing anything like that.”

Several attempts by the Delaware State News to reach Mr. Burton by phone and email for comment were unsuccessful.

The petition, which had over 632 signatures as of early Saturday afternoon, is still up with a goal of securing 5,000 signatures by Sunday evening.

“I decided, after talking with a few people … what are all the potential alternatives available to us. So I have left the petition open. I continue to get signatures. I just ask people to stay tuned,” said Ms. Drago.

The petition’s updated statement Friday evening read, “We have not given up! We want to demonstrate the depth and breadth of community support for I.G. — so much support that he will get back in the race. Please sign! At the same time, your signature will demonstrate to county officials that I.G.’s work must be continued. The first domino has already fallen … We need your voice now. It has yet to be heard.”

Mr. Schaeffer, in line to assume the District 3 seat on the council dais in January, said he has already spoken to a number of councilmen “about what I’d like to get accomplished with the fire service and TIDs (Transportation Improvement Districts) …” and creating “a lot of positive things than can happen here in the near future.”

This was Mr. Schaeffer’s second try. He lost to Mr. Burton by a 1,256 to 1,129 margin in the 2016 GOP primary for county council.

The deadline for filing a write-in candidate declaration is 4:30 p.m. Monday. That’s one day later than Delaware’s official 2020 election calendar, because Sept. 20 falls on a Sunday.

Ms. Drago said she and others “are troubled by this automatic situation where a single party primary decides on a candidate by a sliver of a margin. Because the Democrats did not field any opposition candidates, we end up with a situation that from a practical point of view has disenfranchised all the Democratic and Independent voters in the district.”

“I am calling myself right now the accidental activist. I had no plans to jump into this,” said Ms. Drago. “Then when I began to truly understand what this change means I felt I really needed to jump in and get the petition going. This whole situation is just unfortunate. It is not a great result for Sussex.”

County council’s District 2 representation will be changing hands. Sussex County Register of Wills Cynthia “Cindy” Green of Greenwood topped two other GOP candidates to win the seat currently held by three-term councilman Samuel Wilson Jr., whose son, Robert Wilson was one of the candidates who fell short.

Ms. Green garnered 1,431 total votes, followed by Georgetown residents Robert Wilson (1,150) and Lisa Hudson Briggs (1,086). Ms. Green faces no party challenge in November.

One county council seat will be decided in the General Election. Three-term councilman and current county council president Michael Vincent, a Republican from Seaford, faces Democratic challenger Hunter Hastings in District 1. Mr. Hastings is also from Seaford.

County council seats held by John Rieley of Millsboro (District 5) and Doug Hudson (District 4) are up for election in 2022.