Delaware GOP official quits, blasts party’s US Senate nominee

DOVER — The Republican Party chairman in Delaware’s most populous county has resigned his post, saying he cannot support the party’s U.S. Senate candidate.

Peter Kopf, chairman of the New Castle County Republican Committee, submitted his resignation letter last Thursday, saying he is troubled both by Rob Arlett’s candidacy and the current state Republican Party leadership.

Arlett, a county councilman who served as Donald Trump’s state campaign chair in 2016, defeated former PayPal executive Gene Truono in the GOP Senate primary earlier this month.

“In my opinion, Mr. Arlett lacks the character and integrity needed to lead our ticket and receive my support,” Kopf wrote in an email to members of the state GOP executive committee.

Kopf, 64, also suggested that Arlett’s background will leave him open to attacks by incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper.

“While Mr. Truono may not have wanted to share critical information about Mr. Arlett that will eventually derail his candidacy, rest assured, Senator Carper has done his due diligence and will not hesitate, nor should he,” Kopf wrote.

Kopf confirmed in a telephone interview Wednesday that the references in his letter were to Arlett’s financial problems.

Rob Arlett

Arlett and his wife have faced several mortgage foreclosure actions in recent years, including a default judgment of more than $550,000 that resulted in a sheriff’s sale of their Frankford home in November 2016. Arlett also has been sued twice by the state Department of Revenue for unpaid taxes, once in 2011 and again in 2015. A $4,172.17 judgment in the latter case was satisfied in April.

“To me, everybody has financial issues, but this guy wants to be a United States senator and handle taxpayer dollars, and that’s what disturbs me,” Kopf said Wednesday.

Repeated attempts to reach Arlett for comment were not immediately successful.

“Thank you for reaching out,” Arlett texted. “I’m tied up today but not familiar with what you are referring to.”

Meanwhile, Kopf, a retired banking executive, also took state GOP leaders to task. He asserted in his resignation letter that having the party’s elected vice chair, Emily Taylor, also acting as the party’s paid executive director represents a conflict of interest.

Kopf also criticized the decision by officials to prematurely end delegate voting at April’s state GOP convention on whether the party should endorse Arlett or Truono. After three rounds, the voting ended with Truono just shy of the threshold to win the party’s endorsement for the September primary. Kopf said party bylaws call for five rounds of balloting before voting can be suspended.

“Last but not least we now have 2 convicted felons serving in very public positions within the party,” Kopf wrote.

Kopf confirmed Wednesday that he was referring to former Delaware secretary of state Michael Harkins and former Wilmington Trust president Robert Harra.

Harkins, who works for the party as a paid consultant, pleaded guilty in 2004 to federal mail fraud and tax charges. The charges involved Harkins’ tenure as executive director of the Delaware River and Bay Authority and his personal use of a private plan at agency expense.

Harra, who serves on the state GOP’s finance committee, was convicted in May, along with three other former Wilmington Trust executives, on federal bank fraud charges. He faces sentencing next month.

“Our state party is dying from the inside out and unless changes are made quickly it will be a non-force in this state very soon,” Kopf wrote.

Taylor said party officials wish Kopf well and were sad to hear about his resignation.

“We will move forward to elect as many Republican candidates as we can,” she said, adding that the party will support Arlett “fully.”

Taylor declined to make the same assurance for Scott Walker, a businessman and landlord who won the GOP primary for U.S. House.

Walker has a history of arrests dating to 2007 for minor criminal offenses and conditions at his rental properties. He has also been the subject of several debt collection actions.

“As a party with limited resources, we have to decide where our resources get allocated, and so sometimes we have to focus on different races,” Taylor said.

 

Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press

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