Sussex council District 3 election now has write-in candidate

LEWES — The Lewes woman who spearheaded an online petition encouraging Sussex County Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton — a 44-vote loser in the Sept. 15 Republican primary — to seek to retain his District 3 seat through write-in voting is now hoping to win that seat as a write-in candidate herself.

Patricia Drago

Less than an hour before the write-in declaration deadline Monday, Patricia “Patti” Drago, 67, filed the necessary paperwork with the Sussex County Department of Elections in Georgetown.

As a write-in, she is challenging GOP primary winner Mark Schaeffer of Lewes in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I have decided to file as a write-in candidate for the Sussex County District 3 council seat,” said Ms. Drago. “Much is at stake in this local election. All district voters deserve a choice, and they deserve a candidate with the courage and conviction to fairly represent the interest of all constituents. I can and will do that on your behalf.

“When the primary results concluded, I was extremely disappointed in the outcome. I respect the outcome. Don’t get me wrong. This is not an argument against the primary or its results. Mark Schaeffer won,” she said. “But what troubled me more than that was, because we are in a closed-primary state, more than half of the voters in this district would never have the opportunity to have a say in who takes this seat. There was no choice.”

She emphasizes that her reason for launching the petition — and ultimately to pursue a write-in — was to offer a choice.

“And I.G., having his experience, having been on the job and having started the things he did, I felt that should be continued. He should be given a chance to keep working at what had been started,” said Ms. Drago. “But I have to say, I am my own person. There are things with I.G. that I certainly agreed with, especially given how problems were solved. But some of my opinions, if you will, might differ. So it won’t just be picking up in lockstep and doing exactly what I.G. would have done.”

Ms. Drago plans to soon ramp up her campaign, sharing her background, values and observations of “what needs to be done to ensure that Sussex thrives. I know how to listen and want to hear what your concerns are. I will make sure that you are comfortable voting for me.

“As an Independent, I am not beholding to anyone. No party, no special interests,” she said. “On the other hand, I respect that fact that we need to find an appropriate place for all of these different interests to make sure that we can work together to get things done.”

Mr. Schaeffer, who lost to Mr. Burton by a 1,256 to 1,129 margin in the 2016 GOP primary that featured two other candidates for District 3, turned the tables this year, outpolling Mr. Burton 3,164 to 3,120 last week.

The online petition launched by Ms. Drago urging Mr. Burton to consider a write-in attempt had amassed nearly 800 signatures. However, Mr. Burton declined, Ms. Drago said.

“I have never worked on a campaign. I have never actively campaigned for anyone. It was my first petition that I have ever done. This is my first political campaign for public office,” said Ms. Drago. “We are pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. But I have never had a job where I didn’t have to hit the ground running, learning something I didn’t already know.

“I am reading through all of the election law and making sure I understand what my obligations are, getting a committee set up … trying to get all the building blocks in place so we can hit the ground running this weekend or first thing next week at the latest,” she said. “I love a challenge.”

Ms. Drago said the write-in route will require extra effort to inform and educate voters.

“My name will not appear on the ballot. So we will have an education campaign for everyone who had it on their bucket list to do a write-in. We’re going to show how to do it,” said Ms. Drago. “You would have to know you want to vote for me. With the new machines, they are terrific, (a) simple process. Now, Part 2, we all know that there are going to be a significant number of people voting by absentee ballot. The list of write-in candidates will be mailed with the ballots.”

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Ms. Drago retired after nearly three decades working in the commercial insurance/property casualty business. She and her husband, Richard Weissmann, moved from New Jersey to Delaware about six years ago.

“I am not new to Sussex’s issues. I have been working full time with community groups, trying to tackle some of the issues here in Sussex,” Ms. Drago said. “I am familiar with the comp plan. I am familiar with many of the dynamics in this county. But I need to now corral all of that into a coherent set of issues and positions that are still subject to listening to what people have to say. It’s not just about me. It’s about giving people a choice.”

Mr. Burton joined council in January 2017, succeeding Democrat Joan Deaver, who served two four-year terms as the first woman on Sussex County Council.

Sussex County Register of Wills Cynthia “Cindy” Green of Greenwood will be the second, having emerged from the Republican primary a winner in the 2nd District. She will succeed three-term Councilman Samuel Wilson Jr., who did not seek reelection.

Ms. Green, with 1,431 votes, topped GOP challengers Robert Wilson (1,150) and Lisa Hudson Briggs (1,086) in last week’s primary. Ms. Green is unopposed in the upcoming general election.