It’s not uncommon for someone to challenge another member of their political party in a primary election. But it can get interesting when a primary contest involves a political rookie running against a long-term incumbent.
Republican voters in Delaware’s Representative 34th District will have to make that choice Sept. 9 when they decide whether to send four-term incumbent Donald A. Blakey or newcomer Lyndon Yearick up against Democrat Ted Yacucci on to the November general election.
For the two men, it’s a choice between someone who prides himself on his ability to get things done and someone whose core conservative beliefs fuel his desire to serve.
This is the first time Blakey has faced a primary challenge since being elected to the 34th District in 2006. In each of the last four general elections, he has defeated all comers since by at least 12 percentage points.
With years of experience in state and county government – including multiple terms on Kent County Levy Court – Blakey said he has a good grasp on the concerns facing the residents of the 34th.
“That includes building strong communities, working with Camden, Wyoming and Viola to build good infrastructure and a higher quality of life, and working with the fire departments to make sure they have the kind of attention they need,” he said.
A former teacher and administrator in the Caesar Rodney School District, Blakey said he’s also worked to bolster education and provide afterschool activities to help students perform better.
Yearick said his two decades of business experience, years of working in the community and experience as a teacher in the Woodbridge School District have helped him to understand issues facing the 34th, as well.
Working with the 34th District Republican Committee also has given him the opportunity to learn what has gotten accomplished and what still needs to be done, Yearick said.
“It’s important for the constituents here because I know what can work and what needs to change,” he said. “From that and from my overall involvement in the community, I feel I am the most qualified to serve the people.”
There are a host of issues facing the 34th, Blakey said.
“You can’t just pull out one issue because they’re all related,” he said.
Major concerns he cited include upgrades to schools in the Caesar Rodney School District. A member of the board of the Modern Maturity Center, Blakey also is focusing on senior issues and improving infrastructure for towns in his district.
Yearick said the concerns that are important to the 34th are relevant to all Delawareans, one of the most important being reining in state spending.
“We need fiscal responsibility,” he said, naming Medicaid, public education and DelDOT as his main issues.
Yearick said residents of the 34th have told him they want the safety net Medicaid provides, but are not happy with waste and abuse in the system. He said the current system of funding public school districts is inefficient and the state’s transportation trust fund must be revamped to focus solely on infrastructure improvements.
“We have more than enough money in the transportation fund, but two-thirds of that is spent on [DelDOT] salaries and benefits,” he said.
Many of the same issues being raised in advance of the Sept. 9 primary will key in the Nov. 4 general election, Blakey said.
“They’re not going to go away,” he said. “Improving the quality of life in the 34th improves the quality of life in the general area. That includes older neighborhoods that need to have some upkeep. A lot of people there are older and they don’t have the resources to do these things for themselves.”
Yearick said state legislators need to work to provide greater opportunities for economic growth.
“We need to focus on what we’re blessed with and what we do best, and that includes agriculture, tourism and entrepreneurship,” he said. “I’m a conservative individual in regard to my beliefs and opinions on responsible government, economic development and a public education system that’s effective in the classroom.”
Yearick said he presents a clear distinction between himself and Blakey, as well as Yacucci.
“I’d like to thank Rep. Blakey for his service, but it’s time for a change, for someone who understands the challenges in the state and who presents solutions to the issues and who will bring the energy, conviction and effort to try,” Yearick said.
Blakey, meanwhile, said he feels he’s already proven he can keep the promises that his opponent is making.
“I don’t look at my constituents as Republicans, Democrats or Independents,” he said. “I don’t ask where they go to church, if they’re white or black or if they’re rich or poor. I ask them, ‘What can I do for you.’ I go all-out. My responsibility is to respond, and I do that.”