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1/14/2012
Possible Democrat & Republican challengers for Clark are on the horizon; Weiner: Clark has high negatives - News Journal

Republican Councilman Bob Weiner said it would be difficult for a Republican to beat Clark, but it's not impossible.

"It would help if there was a tough Democratic primary for Paul Clark," Weiner said. "But he has some negatives due to the perception that he tends to side with developers over the civic community."

Observers and Weiner said Kovach's victory over Sheldon was a clear referendum on which candidate would be the better watchdog over Clark and potential conflicts with land developers represented by Scott.

 
NCCo executive remains without primary challenger

Jan. 14, 2012  Written by ADAM TAYLOR  The News Journal

Paul Clark so far faces no declared opposition for New Castle County executive. (Technically, he's not formally declared, either.) 

With only eight months until the Democratic primary, no one has stepped forward to run against New Castle County Executive Paul Clark.

That surprises some people, because Clark took office 14 months ago with a reputation as a County Council president who favored developers over neighborhoods. He also had a widely discussed conflict of interest because his wife, land-use attorney Pam Scott, represented developers who needed county approval for their large, controversial projects to move forward.

Joe Kelly of Greenville said he is disappointed that there isn't a crowded field running against Clark already.

"It's unbelievable that there's not," said Kelly, a Democrat.

Technically, no one -- not even Clark -- is a candidate yet. No one can file until the Democratic and Republican parties submit paperwork to the state. 
The forms to allow Democrats to file are expected to be turned in this month, said Howard Sholl, deputy director of the Delaware Department of Elections for New Castle County.

Candidates have until July 10 to file, and the primary is Sept. 11. But Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello said anyone who wants to wage a serious campaign for a countywide office should have announced their candidacies and have been raising money by now.

"If people who are potentially interested in running haven't figured out what to do by now, it may already be too late," Daniello said.

$90,000 in bank

Clark said he has been raising money and has about $90,000 in the bank, including transfers from his old campaign committee he used as County Council president. State Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove said Clark's first campaign-finance report for his new committee, Clark4NCC, is due Friday.
Possible challengers for Clark are on the horizon.

Democrat William Shahan, a county Land Use Department employee who has never run for office, said he plans to announce his candidacy later this month. 
He has not raised any money yet.

New Castle County GOP Chairman John Rollins said a Republican candidate would soon enter the race for the Nov. 6 general election.

Kelly, the Greenville resident, said it would take a well-known Democratic candidate to oust Clark. There are twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in the county.

A Republican hasn't beaten a Democrat for a countywide office in a non-special election in New Castle County in 22 years. Republican Tom Kovach beat Democrat Tim Sheldon in a special election for New Castle County Council president earlier this year. Only 7.4 percent of the county's registered voters went to the polls for that race, held on a Thursday in January.

Republican Councilman Bob Weiner said it would be difficult for a Republican to beat Clark, but it's not impossible.

"It would help if there was a tough Democratic primary for Paul Clark," Weiner said. "But he has some negatives due to the perception that he tends to side with developers over the civic community."

Observers and Weiner said Kovach's victory over Sheldon was a clear referendum on which candidate would be the better watchdog over Clark and potential conflicts with land developers represented by Scott.

After Coons

Clark admits he wasn't prepared to become county executive in November 2010, when he, as County Council president, automatically replaced Chris Coons after Coons was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Scott resigned from Saul Ewing in March after the county Ethics Commission said either Scott or Clark would have to step down from their positions to prevent a conflict of interest on Clark's part. Clark said he thinks land-use issues have run smoothly since his wife stepped down.

"I think we handled it well," Clark said. "We asked for a little time. I think people are sometimes amazed that people keep their word."

The Save Our County group doesn't feel that way. It sued the county over the decision to rezone Barley Mill Plaza in Greenville. Scott used to represent Stoltz Real Estate Partners, which owns the property. The suit alleges that the county Land Use Department's report that recommended County Council approve the rezoning was influenced by the fact that Scott was Stoltz's attorney for three years, until March.

Shahan said he thinks Scott's former role as a land-use attorney could still be a 2012 campaign issue.

"If I was county executive, my wife isn't going to benefit one dime from anything that gets approved," Shahan said.

Street calls it myth

Councilman Jea Street, a Democrat, said he thinks Clark isn't likely to have a well-known Democratic opponent because people have had 14 months to see that Clark has done a good job. The notion that Clark was working on his wife's behalf for developers has proved to be a myth as well, he said.

"Everybody claimed that she was some kind of driving force behind him," Street said. "I think he's shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that he stands on his own two feet and is about good government."

Councilman George Smiley, who is also a member of the New Castle County Democratic Executive Committee, agrees with Street.

"I don't think the perceptions of the few have been accepted by the many," Smiley said.

"People could still jump in," said Kovach, who opted to run for Congress later this year. "It's clear to me by the number of people who had approached me about running for the position -- from both parties, the business community and civic groups -- that the opinion is there is plenty of room for improvement at the county executive's position."

 

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