Candidate Barbour withdraws from race

Rehoboth official withdraws candidacy

Commissioner's decision comes less than a month before election

Jul 24, 2011  |  

Ethan Rothstein
Staff Writer


The DailyTimes, Delmarva

REHOBOTH BEACH -- City Commissioner Dennis Barbour abruptly withdrew his candidacy for re-election less than a month before the Aug. 13 election.

He didn't tell anyone of his plans, and his announcement shocked Rehoboth Beach.

"I was very surprised," said City Manager Greg Ferrese. "There was no hinting that he would withdraw at all."

Barbour's six-year tenure as a Commissioner, especially recently, has been defined by his advocacy for more transparency within the city government and his contentious relationship with Mayor Sam Cooper and several Commissioners.

Cooper said he was "simply surprised" when Barbour announced his decision, but he declined to comment beyond that.

"(The board's) meetings were becoming more and more chaotic, and frankly the personal attacks on me increased," Barbour said. "I'm an attorney. I love having a good debate, but when folks fail to reason and start attacking you personally, you can't have a conversation."

Commissioner Pat Coluzzi echoed Barbour's sentiments, even going so far as to say other Commissioners tried to intimidate him.

"It's been unfortunate for Dennis that it played out this way," she said. "He's a very bright man. It's difficult when you have part of the Commission really ganging up on you in a personal way. I think it's a loss for the city."

Coluzzi and Barbour have been allies in the minority over the past year, losing key decisions including a high-profile battle over patio and noise ordinance enforcement.

"I'm very sorry to see (Barbour) go," she said. "He was a catalyst for some much-needed changes. He put more items on the agenda than any other Commissioner during his term. There were issues that shouldn't be ignored, but if he didn't take them up, they weren't addressed."

Barbour's late withdrawal will only cost the city the postage for sending new absentee ballots to the 122 voters who sent in affidavits, said election clerk Donna Moore. Any absentee voter who already sent in a ballot with Barbour's name on it has until Aug. 12 to submit a new one or it will not be counted.

Barbour was chiefly concerned with making the government more transparent and accessible for businesses and citizens. He said the majority of Commissioners "have been extraordinarily divisive" with their unwillingness to openly discuss issues.

"They've tried to sweep (problems) under the rug, and they've inflamed local businesses," he said. "Once you start a war, you can't just walk off the battlefield after you slaughter half the enemy and say 'nevermind.' "

Barbour, who is openly gay, said the patio debacle "blew up" gay-straight relations in the city, but he "didn't want to play any kind of role in disrupting the good relationship that still exists."

Richard Kirchhoff, owner of the Canalside Inn; Mark Hunker, owner of Eden Restaurant; and incumbent Lorraine Zellers will compete for two available seats on the board.

Cooper, who's been in office for seven terms, is up for re-election as well, and he's being challenged by Tom McGlone, owner of Heirloom Wealth Advisors, an investment planning firm.

"I'm pleased with the candidates this year," Barbour said. "One of the problems with the mayoral position is 21 years is too long to do anything."

Barbour will remain active in Rehoboth politics. He said he felt he could have a bigger impact on the elections if he didn't run.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I still have good ideas, and I think my ideas have the support of the community. The people haven't heard the last of me."

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