Kent County Democrats gain Levy Court seat, sheriff’s office

CHESWOLD — Dozens of Kent County Democrats cheered thunderously on Tuesday night at the Delaware State Troopers Association hall in Cheswold when several state and county-level offices were announced to have swung blue.

The big news for Kent County residents in local races was that two Republican incumbents were upset by Democrat challengers. Both the second district Levy Court commissioner seat and sheriff’s office went to Democrats on Tuesday night.

Democrat challenger Jeffery Hall won his bid for the second district commissioner seat against incumbent Republican James Hosfelt in a tight race. Mr. Hosfelt took 4,391 votes to Mr. Hall’s 5,240.

In the sheriff’s race, Dover City Councilman Brian E. Lewis, with 50.81 percent of the vote, unseated incumbent Jason Mollahan.

Mr. Hosfelt, formerly the chief of police in Dover, was elected to the seat mid-term in 2017 during a special election prompted by Bradley Eaby vacating the office. On Tuesday night, he wished Mr. Hall luck.

“We wish Jeff Hall and the rest of Levy Court all the best,” he said. “I called Jeff and offered my congratulations and told him he could count on my help if he needs it. The residents and employees of Kent County are most dear to me, so I’ll do whatever I can do to help make for a smooth transition.”

For his part, Mr. Hall appreciated Mr. Hosfelt’s contribution to the county.

“When he called, I let him know I was thankful for his service to the county and all his past service to the city of Dover and his time in the Air Force,” said Mr. Hall. “I think we both ran good campaigns. I’m looking forward to working with the other commissioners for the betterment of the county. It’s good timing for the county with great economic opportunities, specifically with the Kent Economic Partnership arrangement. I’m also looking forward to tackling some of the thornier issues, like housing affordability, homelessness issues and farmland preservation.”

Mr. Hall, the department chairman of Engineering Technologies at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus, said he visited over 2,500 homes in Kent County during his campaign.

“I met a lot of good folks, and heard a lot from this county’s constituents,” he said. “There is a lot to deliver for them, and I intend to do that.”

Attesting to his work ethic, At-Large Levy Court commissioner Terry Pepper — who held his seat against Republican challenger James Callaway on Tuesday night — said he looked forward to working with Mr. Hall.

“He has worked hard — he started campaigning a year ago,” said Mr. Pepper. “He started knocking on doors and he was persistent. Jim Hosfelt fit in well with Levy Court and did a great job, we’re going to miss him, but on the other hand we picked up another good Levy Court commissioner with an engineering background, which I think will serve us well — especially with our wastewater infrastructure.”

Mr. Pepper held his seat by taking in 32,677 votes to Mr. Callaway’s 24,003.

“I feel good about the win, we worked hard and we did everything we could possibly do,” he said. “We didn’t take our opponent lightly but we ran a clean race. I’m happy to continue to represent all the citizens of Kent County for another four years. We have a great Levy Court that gets things done.”

Mr. Pepper will start his third consecutive term in the office. He also held the at-large seat from 1994 to 1998, but did not seek reelection after that term. On Tuesday, Mr. Pepper said that he and his daughter Heather Pepper-Imhof continued their election day tradition of driving together up and down the county to meet with voters at the majority of polling spots.

Of the six Kent County offices up for election, two were unopposed and incumbents walked back into them Tuesday night. Glen Howell and Eric Buckson — both Republicans — retained their roles as Levy Court commissioners for the sixth and fourth districts, respectively. Mr. Buckson will begin his fourth term as a county commissioner while Mr. Howell begins his third.

Addressing the crowded hall on Tuesday night, fifth district commissioner George “Jody” Sweeney urged the Democratic party faithful to take note of the swing toward their party in the county.

“There is a lesson to be learned here for Levy Court: the only two Republicans on Levy Court didn’t have opponents this year,” he said. “Everybody else is a Democrat!”

Row Offices

Incumbent Sheriff Mollohan, a Republican, was ousted by a razor thin margin. Democrat challenger Lewis garnered 29,693 votes to Mr. Mollohan’s 28,740.

Mr. Mollohan had served a single four-year term as sheriff.

Neither Mr. Mollohan or Mr. Lewis couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

Incumbent Democrat for the Kent County Recorder of Deeds office Betty Lou McKenna won her shot at reelection against Republican challenger Eugenia Thornton by taking 53 percent of the vote. Ms. McKenna will start her fifth term in the office.

“I am just so glad that the results are in with no glitches,” she said.

In 2014, Ms. McKenna was awarded the office in a court decision after recounts in a close race with Republican LaMar Gunn.

During the campaign for the seat, much was made of the potential for “title fraud” in the county. Ms. Thornton, a retired U.S. Army colonel and the sitting Regional Planning Commissioner, said that the fraud was an important issue facing the county’s taxpayers and it needed to be taken seriously. Ms. McKenna insisted several times that “it just can’t happen here” and that the deeds office’s current procedure was ideal.

“Mrs. Thornton ran a pretty tough campaign with a lot of accusations which were mostly, if not all, false,” Ms. McKenna said Tuesday night. “I left that alone, having never run a negative campaign and made the decision to not do that this time. I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak about the wonderful, dedicated staff in the office though. Our experienced and hard working staff in the deeds office is really what makes everything we do possible.”

Mrs. Thornton couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

 

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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