Longtime Delaware lawmaker not running for reelection

    The 2010 legislative session will be the end of State Representative Bill Oberle’s long career in the State House.

    He’s been in the General Assembly since 1976, but the end of the 2010 legislative session will be the end of State Representative Bill Oberle’s  career in the State House.  Oberle (R- Beecher’s Lot), who will be 61 when his term ends in November, was first elected to represent the area south of Newark when he was 27.

    Fellow long-term state lawmaker, Senator Harris McDowell was first elected to office the same year as Oberle.  He says Oberle will be missed, “He has served long, he has served well.  He has served with great distinction, and I think we should honor him for that service.  I was a bit surprised, but I wish him well.”

    Oberle has not been known as a lawmaker who keeps the party line.  He separated himself from fellow Republicans on a number of issues, including taking a leadership role on getting approval for a measure that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  He’s also been known as a fierce advocate of Delaware’s three casinos.

    His decision not to run could give Democrats greater control over the House.  Democrats currently hold a 24-17 advantage over Republicans.  State Representative John Kowalko (D- Newark South) says the advantage Democrats have in voter registration in that district should help flip that seat from Republican to Democratic control.  “It bodes fairly well.  I’m hoping that the talent that we present as the Democratic party for any of these seats and all of these seats is talent that’s worthy of not just the consideration, but also the vote of the people.”  He says Oberle’s experience, especially in budget matters, will be missed.

    Oberle is not the 0nly Republican House member to decide not to run for reelection.  State Representative Pam Thornburg (R- Dover West) is also leaving elected office at the end of her term.  Thornburg will become the Executive Director of the Delaware Farm Bureau after leaving office.  She currently works as the public relations director for the bureau.  She was first elected in 2000.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.