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Wilmington Mayor Wins Chance For Second Term

September 8, 1996

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ Wilmington Mayor James Sills won a heated Democratic primary Saturday in which he was attacked for allowing services to decline and violent crime to rise in the city of 73,000.

Sills, the city’s first black mayor, won with 50 percent of the vote and is virtually assured of a second term, since Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city 3-to-1.

His two main primary opponents, both white at-large City Council members, split the opposition vote. Loretta Walsh had 28 percent, and Robert F. Poppiti had 18 percent.

They had criticized Sills for ignoring basic city services such as clean streets, graffiti-free buildings and adequate police and fire protection.

Just this week, the city’s fraternal order of police put up a billboard warning motorists they’re entering a dangerous city where shootings and homicides are up and the police ranks are down.

Sills, a 64-year-old former state lawmaker, bristles at the criticism, saying the city is better off since he has been in office. He faces Republican Brad Zuber in November.

In other races, businessman Ray Clatworthy easily won a three-way Republican primary for the right to face Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. in November.

And Democrat Dennis Williams, an accountant, won the right to challenge for Delaware’s lone House seat against GOP Rep. Michael Castle.

Clatworthy won his primary with 81 percent of the vote, and Williams defeated a single opponent with 74 percent, but they face formidable odds in November. Delaware has a history of re-electing incumbents of either party.

Biden has been in the Senate for nearly a quarter-century and is regularly re-elected with support topping 60 percent. Castle won his last election with 71 percent of the vote. Both incumbents also have campaign war chests that dwarf their competitors’.

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