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Black Candidate Loses City Race

April 22, 1986

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ A former black city councilman lost a bid Monday to recapture his seat in a city election conducted under laws that have been challenged in court for alleged race discrimination.

James Hardcastle, the only black to serve on the City Council, lost to political newcomer Patrick Lynn by a vote of 1,513 to 901. Lynn is white.

Hardcastle was appointed to the 4th District seat in 1975 and was re- elected four times before being defeated in 1984 Roger Bulley.

Bulley garnered 417 votes in Monday’s three-way race.

Hardcastle, 70, said he had no plans to run again for the City Council, but did not rule out running for another elective office.

″I will continue to work in the community,″ he said.

The black community had mixed feelings over Hardcastle’s candidacy because some said it could hurt a lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in Wilmington.

The suit was filed shortly before last year’s elections by the central Delaware branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Cecil Wilson, branch president. It contends Dover’s at-large elections and dual registration violate the 1964 Voting Rights Act and make it virtually impossible for blacks to get elected.

Dover has four election districts of different sizes from which candidates for each seat are chosen, but voters throughout the city cast ballots for all seats. Approximately 29 percent of Dover’s 23,000 residents are black.

Residents must also register to vote at City Hall for city elections, separate from registration for federal, state and county elections.

Similar election systems on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have been challenged in the last year by the Justice Department, which won its cases after arguing that the voting power of blacks was diluted.

Wilson said last week he did not plan to vote because he did not think a black should run because it was an acceptance of the election system.

Reuben Salters, an NAACP official, said one black on the council was better than none. Salters said, however, if Hardcastle won, it could have an impact on the lawsuit.

Hardcastle has refused to discuss the controversy, but said when he checked with local NAACP officials before announcing his candidacy, he was told his running wouldn’t be a problem.

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