In a little noticed development, an openly gay attorney won election on Nov. 6 as Clerk of the Peace in conservative, Republican leaning Sussex County, Del., where the liberal enclave of Rehoboth Beach is located.
John Brady, a Democrat, defeated a Republican opponent by a margin of 54 percent to 44 percent, winning in parts of the county where gay Democrats Andy Staton and Marie Mayor lost their bids to become the first openly gay members of the Delaware Legislature.
As Clerk of the Peace, Brady, among other things, will issue marriage and civil unions licenses as well as perform civil marriages and civil unions in his role as head of the Sussex County Marriage Bureau.
Staton lost in a newly created State Senate district and Mayor lost in a newly created State House of Representatives district that most political observers believed to be favorable to Democrats.
But Staton, a Rehoboth Realtor, and Mayor, a farmer and businesswoman in the town of Milton, became the target of attack mailings and emails generated by the anti-gay Delaware Family Policy Council.
“Did you hear? The largest gay activist group in the country, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, just endorsed – and is fully backing – two Delaware candidates: Andy Staton for Senate in the new 6th district and Marie Mayor for Rep. in the new 20th district (Georgetown, Milton, Lewis, Rehoboth),” says an Oct. 17 email to voters from Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council.
Theis’ email quotes from a Victory Fund statement supporting Staton and Mayor that says the two “understand that Delaware is only 1 or 2 votes away from passing same-sex ‘marriage.’” Theis implies in her email — printed copies of which reportedly were distributed in dozens of churches — that Staton and Mayor’s election could result in the approval of a gay marriage bill by the Delaware Legislature.
“We also uncovered from sources on the ground that hundreds of out-of-state gay activists with a radical agenda are in Delaware door knocking by twos for Mayor and Staton,” Theis said in her email.
Republican Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez beat Staton by a 56.1 percent to 42.7 percent margin. GOP opponent Stephen Smyk defeated Mayor by a margin of 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent.
The Cape Gazette, a newspaper that covers Delaware’s eastern shore communities, including Sussex County, reported that Lopez beat Staton in 15 of the 17 precincts in the district where the two ran, with Staton winning only one precinct in his home base of Rehoboth Beach and one in Milton.
Smyk beat Mayor in 8 of the 10 precincts in the 20th House district, in which the two competed, according to the Cape Gazette.
“It just wasn’t in the cards for a Democrat down here in Sussex County,” Staton told the Blade. “I’m told there was an 80 percent Republican turnout in this part of the county and a much lower Democratic turnout.”
Sussex was the only one of Delaware’s three counties to give Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a win over President Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
However, other popular state Democrats who are strong supporters of LGBT rights did win in Sussex. Among them were Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, U.S. Rep. John Carney, and state Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, whose district includes Rehoboth Beach. All four won their re-election bids.
Brady, who’s been openly gay in the county for more than 10 years, said the Family Policy Council did not target him, possibly because the group knew he’s widely known and respected by many Republicans and Democrats.
Brady, 53, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009. He’s been praised as a good government advocate during his tenure as an elected and appointed official in offices that include county Recorder of Deeds and solicitor, or attorney, for the towns of Milton, Dewey Beach and Ellendale.
“I flew by the wire,” he said in explaining his Nov. 6 victory, which made him the only non-incumbent Democrat to win a county-wide race in Sussex.
“I have a record that people know about,” he said. “When you run the land office you don’t run on gay or straight issues, you run on getting the job done and saving the taxpayers money.”
Brady ran against 23-year-old security guard Brooks Witzke, a Republican who stated in campaign appearances that he’s a conservative Christian who opposes same-sex marriage and would lobby the state legislature to repeal the civil unions law, which lawmakers passed in 2011.