Melrath files to face Cole for county council

by Michael Short on September 4, 2010

By Michael Short

At the last minute, a Democratic challenger has stepped up to face incumbent Sussex County Councilman George Cole.

Cole, a veteran Republican on the Sussex County Council, will be challenged by Russell Melrath in District Four. Delaware’s political parties had until Wednesday, Sept. 1 to name candidates and that is when Melrath’s name was added to the ballot.

Cole, of Bethany Beach, and fellow Republican Vance Phillips are running for re-election. Phillips will face Dennis Cordrey.

Republicans currently hold a 4-1 majority on the five-man council with Phillips and Cole being the senior members. Democrats held a 3-2 majority until 2008 when Finley Jones, Dale Dukes and Lynn Rogers retired.

Cole was first elected to Sussex County Council in 1986 and holds the seat once held by his late father Charles Cole. His mother, Kitty Cole, also briefly held the seat.

He owns an antique shop and is known as a strong environmental advocate who has been concerned about overdevelopment and traffic congestion in coastal areas.

Melrath, of Dagsboro, is a retired State Farm insurance executive. He has been active in Sussex County politics since moving here 10 years ago. He is a member of the Shore Democrats as well as the 38th District Democratic Committee.

The 60-year-old Melrath has a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and ran for election once before, winning a primary but losing the general election  for county commissioner in Cecil County, Maryland.

He and his wife are avid kayakers and love the environment. Melrath said he has always been interested in politics and is basing much of his campaign upon his interest in the environment.

Melrath said he supports protecting the inland bays and drinking water quality. He supports working with the state to allow development without environmental damage and supports the adoption of a drainage ordinance to protect homeowners from flooding and standing water problems.

He also opposes additional Sussex County involvement with transportation and roads (traditionally a state reponsibility).

“I am very pleased to announce Russ’s candidacy. With strong candidates in Russell Melrath and Dennis Cordrey, we intend to show the Sussex County Council that they cannot simply kowtow to the big developers and leave normal people in the lurch,” said Sussex County Democratic Chairman Ed O’Conner. “We intend to bring a level of balance back to the County Council and we like our chances with these two candidates.”

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