State parties set to undergo changes at top

Charlie Copeland

John Daniello

DOVER — Chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties in Delaware are expected to step down soon.

Delaware Republican Chairman Charlie Copeland, who’s held the post since July 2013, said he is not seeking a third two-year term because of work commitments.

On the Democratic side, multiple individuals are set to run for the top spot with John Daniello expected to retire after 12 years as the party’s state chairman.

Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, riding high after backing Donald Trump before most of the Delaware GOP did, is considering seeking the top Republican Party post while Erik Raser-Schramm and Glen Schmiesing are aiming to succeed Mr. Daniello in the Democratic Party.

Mr. Raser-Schramm is a former chief of staff for the House Democratic caucus; Mr. Schmiesing has served with several local Democratic party groups.

But, in Delaware, the Democratic party is far more powerful, a result of the state’s left leanings.

The Delaware GOP was divided in the wake of the 2010 election, when tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell upset Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The ties between the party’s moderate and conservative wings have been strengthened in the ensuing years and, as a result, the Republicans have posed more of a challenge to the Democratic party — at least in some races.

During Mr. Copeland’s two two-year terms, the Republican party won two state Senate seats, including a victory over the Senate president pro tempore in November. The party also saw the first statewide victory by a non-incumbent Republican in 20 years when Ken Simpler was elected state treasurer in 2014.

In addition to those three victories, Mr. Copeland also pointed to a February special election for the 10th Senate District as what he sees as evidence the GOP is on an upswing. Although Democrat Stephanie Hansen won the election in a traditionally Democratic district, Mr. Copeland believes the Republican Party “really made (the Democrats) work.”

“The Democrats had to pull out everything they had just to get their base out,” he said.

Since November, Mr. Copeland has been serving as the president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative nonprofit that promotes ideas of a free-market.

The job requires a great deal of travel, he said.

“That just makes it very difficult to do the things you need to do,” Mr. Copeland said.

A new Republican chairman will be elected in May at the annual party convention. Attendees will also choose a new vice chairman and treasurer as a result of vice chairman John Foltz and treasurer Bill Smith leaving.

Mr. Foltz is not seeking another term due to non-party responsibilities while Mr. Smith had previously decided he would stay on as long as Mr. Copeland did, according to Mr. Copeland.

Mr. Arlett said he has been encouraged to run by many Republicans around the state. He will make a decision soon.

Mr. Copeland’s predecessor, John Sigler, resigned abruptly about two years into his term, leading to Mr. Copeland’s election. Mr. Copeland served in the state Senate from 2002 to 2008 and ran for lieutenant governor in 2008.

Mr. Daniello, the Democrat, has been involved in Delaware politics for more than four decades and the party won the state House in 2008 during his tenure.

The Democratic party will hold its convention in June, during which time the new chair will be selected.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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