In village of Arden, neighbors are now foes in Delaware House race

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Republican Eric Braunstein and Ray Seigfried live a few doors from each other in Arden, but are opponents in the race for the 7th District seat in the Delaware House of Representatives. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Republican Eric Braunstein and Ray Seigfried live a few doors from each other in Arden, but are opponents in the race for the 7th District seat in the Delaware House of Representatives. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Walking down Hillside Road from his home in the bucolic village of Arden is Ray Seigfried. He’s the Democratic nominee for the 7th District seat in Delaware’s House of Representatives.

Coming up the street is his neighbor of four years, Eric Braunstein. He’s the Republican nominee.

The foes have agreed to meet with WHYY for a photo together about their unusual contest.

“It looks like a shootout,” Braunstein quipped.

Even in the nation’s second-smallest state, Delaware’s elections chief cannot recall a General Assembly race where the foes live a few doors apart.

Before the race, these two men “vaguely’’ knew each other, Seigfried recalled. Their homes are only about 100 yards from one another, but in Arden, where homes sit on sprawling, wooded lots and privacy is cherished, that’s not unusual.

Braunstein and Seigfried say they have gotten to know each other much better as they both go door-to-door shaking hands, asking for votes.

Eric Braunstein is the Republican nominee for the 7th District seat in the Delaware House of Representatives. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Braunstein is a realtor who has headed the industry’s Delaware trade association. Seigfried was a senior executive at Christiana Care, the state’s largest hospital system.

Both say their expertise in their respective fields can help Delaware. And both are focusing on creating jobs in a district that includes working-class Claymont and the affluent yet aging Brandywine Hundred.

They both may live on Hillside Road, but they exist in different ideological neighborhoods.

That was revealed during a pointed, though polite exchange that occurred when Braunstein talked about how he wants to help Republicans break the Democrats’ stronghold on both chambers of the Delaware Legislature.

For the last 25 years, Delaware has had a Democrat governor. Democrats control the House 25-16.

“This overwhelming control we’ve had by one party has not served our schools system, has not served our ability to raise jobs, so I want to see that change,’’ Braunstein said. “If we can do away with this high majority, both sides are going to have to communicate better with each other. That’s gonna be good for everybody. It’s going to be good for the seventh district, it’s going to be good for the state of Delaware.”

Seigfried cut him off.

Raymond Seigfried is the Democratic nominee for the 7th District seat in the Delaware House of Representatives. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“I disagree with that,’’ he said. “So you know, first of all, if you look at the success the Democratic Party has had. It’s simply because we have had better policy and we also have had better candidates. You know that’s a fact of life. You know, unlike the mess that‘s happening in Washington. I think the majority rule down here in Dover is a heck of a lot better and I don’t want to see what’s happening in Washington down here, clear and simple.”

Based on recent history, Seigfried would appear to be the favorite. Democrats have held the House seat in the once-conservative district for 11 years and hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage.

But Braunstein said he aims to appeal to all voters, especially the 25 percent who are not affiliated with either party.

“I’m out on the street every day visiting with voters,’’ Braunstein said. “That is the prime focus of my campaign. Talking to folks.”

Seigfried, who triumphed in the five-candidate Democratic primary, touts his experience on Arden’s town government, where he serves on the Community Planning Committee.

“I know what it’s like working for local government, to work with the county and the state,” he said. “I’ve been doing this now for eight years.”

Brooke Bovard, who chairs the 7th District Democratic Committee, said the race between neighbors makes some residents uncomfortable. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

No matter who wins, resident Brooke Bovard says the election will mark the first time a resident of Arden will serve in the General Assembly.

Chair of the 7th District Democratic Committee, Bovard says Ardenites, as the 500 residents call themselves, aren’t exactly enamored to have neighbors competing for their vote.

“I think that people are a little uncomfortable because they don’t want to offend anybody,’’ she said.

“You have two neighbors knocking on doors and they don’t want to say anything bad to either of them. But I think everybody will vote their conscience.”

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