Filed in Delaware by on September 15, 2016

That was the number of votes that separated Mike Purzycki and Eugene Young for Wilmington Mayor by the end of the night on Tuesday. The difference between Purzycki and Kevin Kelley was 415 votes. 12,578 votes for Mayor were cast. But at the end of the day, there were 2,734 votes cast for Eugene Young who made me proud to be a small part of his campaign everyday. Everyday. A quick reminder of where we started — a year or so back, as Eugene started talking with people to gather up support, the leadership of this city (and its pundits) told him that no one knew him, then that he needed to wait his turn for Mayor, then that he couldn’t raise any money. Eugene did, of course, overcome every bit of that and ignored the wait your turn crowd. With is smart and fiercely competitive management team, he ran a citywide campaign with more than 200 volunteers (91 volunteers showed up and volunteered on Tuesday. 91!) and ended up knocking on more than 50,000 Wilmington doors. He ran an honorable and progressive campaign and completely avoided the sideshows that were being run by the more establishment candidates. Eugene Young, his vision for the city and his crackerjack campaign team caught the attention of the News Journal who endorsed a genuine progressive for Mayor. It was a real heartbreaker to come up short by 234 votes.

Team Young included some of the sharpest and most experienced political organizers and strategists in Delaware (anywhere, really). They were young people too — young people who cut their teeth of the Obama and Markell campaigns, among other data-driven campaigns. That meant that I got to witness the first 21st century campaign run in Wilmington. This campaign was not run by the usual tactics — get out your base in whatever district you are strong in, get out your friends, get out your family and then get out whoever else you can get to support you. Eugene and his team ran a modern campaign, driven by data and modern organizing best practices fo fundraise, to canvass, to communicate, to develop policy and to GOTV. They set goals and measured themselves by those goals, they invested in assessing their progress and made clear-eyed adjustments in strategy based on that. Team Young collected volunteers as they went along — because not only was the energy of this team exciting, this campaign was just fun. Plenty of those volunteers were young people who were energized by Eugene’s message and vision but who hadn’t done much political work and there were plenty like me — certainly older, experienced with campaigns but also energized by the promise of Eugene’s vision. This isn’t just me, but I (and others) have heard by some major campaign veterans that this was the best campaign operation in the city and maybe the state. On Election Night, I heard Priscilla Rakestraw and Jim Baker dismiss the Young campaign for Mayor as a pipedream. This was before any votes came in. I hope that they are eating their words now — because this pipedream came within 234 votes of winning. And did that by focusing on the ENTIRE city and not the more republican part of it. This campaign should be a wakeup call to every potential Wilmington candidate in 2020 — because the rules have just changed.

It is important to take a good look at the election results that I embedded below (thanks to an Anonymous contributor). The map that the NJ presented showed that Williams won large parts of the city is incredibly misleading. While he definitely won parts of EDs, if you look at the totals won for the 1st and 2nd ED, Eugene won those districts. Right in Williams’ backyard. That’s incredibly promising. He came in first or second in all of the City Wards except for the 7th. And came in a damned respectable second in the 8th. That’s good news for those of us who think that we should have a more progressive City government.

Still — the good news of the night was that Dennis Williams will no longer be Mayor of Wilmington come January. 86% of the votes cast specifically were to choose leadership other than Williams. More good news is that his fearmongering campaign was a spectacular failure. Rolling out the usual Channel 28 talkers and the pastors who endorsed Williams in 2012 to endorse his clear failure in 2016 did not fool anybody. Self-styled Next Generation leadership that endorsed Williams (and Gordon for that matter) are now lamenting that the African American community doesn’t know how to stick together. I think that it is a sign that the African American community does know how to vote its own interests and does know how to judge people who are clearly not working for them. It is also a good sign that there is a line you can cross with constituents that will motivate them to look for other options. The other good news is that plenty of establishment types were sent home — Dennis Williams, Norm Griffiths, Theo Gregory. That means that there is a formula for transitioning to a newer generation of leadership here and we have to find folks who are interested in implementing that.

The bad news is that City Council is probably weaker than it was before. There’s probably other bad news, but we’ll save that for another day.

I had a great time working with Team Young. I wish I could have done more to help them. Eugene pulled together a group of disparate people to focus on changing this city. I’m hoping that we can find a way for this group to still work for long term political change in Wilmington. Because we still need a reset in the political landscape here in order to move the city forward. And the only people who will do this hard work is us.

Thank you, Eugene Young, for your leadership and your vision for progressive change. Thank you for showing me that my own hopes for Wilmington were not crazy. Thank you for including me in a small way on your journey.

Summary election results by ED:

Summary Election Results by City Ward:

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"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

Comments (34)

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  1. Dorian Gray says:

    When I shook Eugene hand late Tuesday night I said this is only the end of chapter one.

  2. Jason330 says:

    “Eugene pulled together a group of disparate people to focus on changing this city. I’m hoping that we can find a way for this group to still work for long term political change in Wilmington.”

    That’s a real long term upside to campaigns like this. Keep is rolling.

  3. pandora says:

    Working with this campaign is one of the things in my life I’m most proud of. It was a wonderful experience. It was an honor.

    I intend to stay involved. Eugene is Wilmington’s future. I’ve seen it, and it’s amazing.

  4. Sheldon #WashingtonforWilmington.com says:

    Mr. Eugene Young could still have a part in a progressive campaign for Mayor of Wilmington with Mr. Washington’s campaign, should he choose to do so.


  5. Bane says:

    Mayor Baker is apart of that old guard of black politicos in the city who refused to support Young. Young and his team stand up for what is right regardless of color. It’s a shame that they had to fight back against the rich whites on the other side of town as well as the the elders in their own community just to be heard.

  6. Pinky says:

    Priscilla Rakestraw ran a near constant anti-Eugene Young campaign for months leading to the 13th.

  7. Marcellus Wallace says:

    Worth noting: Cassandra has been Delaware’s most consistently excellent writer on Wilmington issues for the better part of 2 years now. When it comes to the current (outgoing) administration, her work been unsparing but fair, reality-based, and reasonable in tone. I’m not sure whether her work factored into the results of the election, but it has been invaluable to the community.

  8. pandora says:

    Yes, it factored in. Cassandra is a force!

  9. anonymous says:

    “Priscilla Rakestraw ran a near constant anti-Eugene Young campaign for months leading to the 13th.”

    Think it through. She’s a Republican. Purzycki is a Republican. If a Republican supports him, it turns off the Democrats he needs. So instead she goes after the only guy who can beat him.

    Some media idiots never learn that letting two partisan players participate in coverage doesn’t produce balance, it just puts three competing agendas on display — the Democrat’s, the Republican’s and the media’s.

  10. Gymrat says:

    So it may sound off a bit at first but Eugene would be a great choice to fill out the Sheriff’s term. It is filled by Gubernatorial appointment.
    There is an opportunity to raise the consumer advocacy piece of the office regarding foreclosures as well as a platform to identify and engage in public private partnership to work with the BOA’s, Wells and other Financial institutions that are buying the properties into their portfolios as financial self defense. These institutions would be likely partners as they are in the money business and not the real estate business,
    Just sayn’

  11. YoungForever says:

    Eugene truly won the race because he did it without paying people or throwing incompetent candidates in the race. Just for the record 50k was not enough to write us of to the devil Mr. Oliver. We all know Purzycki hates and talks disgustingly about African-Americans openly in public. People talk about Trump when the real conversation should be about the Local Trump of Wilmington. Pray for Wilmington because we will need it.

  12. ex-anonymous says:

    youngforever, you’re full of crap. i don’t know if purzycki talks like that in private, and i doubt you do either. but comparing him with trump is ridiculous. it doesn’t do your cause any good to see everybody you disagree with as equally bad. you know, the boy crying wolf sort of thing. why worry about a guy like trump if he’s only as bad as mike purzycki.

  13. Joe Laux says:

    Best argument ever for DE to implement a runoff primary when no candidate reaches 40% of the vote. Maybe something we can start advocating for.

  14. Gymrat says:

    Mike is 3 years older than me and has always had a case of “Big shotitis” since he was Dave Nelson’s Blue Hen Star. He has an extremely well developed ego and is capable of Blatant condescension but he is NOT a racist he will dismiss someone he perceives to be useless of any race.
    The guy can count and read that map. Lets see how he builds bridges. Eugene and Kevin can both hold their own with Mike in a room and it is up to Mike to reach out. lets see if he does and how it goes.

  15. Tizzy Lockman says:

    Great analysis, as always.

    You can count me in for the long haul.

  16. cassandra m says:

    YoungForever, you are quite right about this:
    Eugene truly won the race because he did it without paying people or throwing incompetent candidates in the race.

    I should have mentioned that in my piece — this , too, was incredibly unusual for a city-wide race. Team Young had a handful of paid canvassers, but did not pay for poll workers, did not pay walk around money, did not pay local “consultants” for GOTV.

    The rest of your post strikes me as wrong — I don’t know anyone who would day that outside of Channel 28. But it is pretty choice that ex-anonymous would object to that since he’s been pushing clearly wrong narratives about Eugene all season. If it isn’t cool to hear that kind of thing directed at your guy, then you shouldn’t be directing similar stuff towards anyone else.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

  17. Josh W says:

    It is incredibly impressive that Young was able to come from complete obscurity to second place, garnering an endorsement from the News Journal along the way, all the while fighting against several well-established city politicians. He’s still young (yes, pun), and he’s probably going to have a pretty bright future. I’m looking forward to what he’s going to do next.

    @Joe Laux, I agree with your sentiment, if not your specific idea. We should definitely have some electoral reform here in DE, but between the presidential primary, Tuesday’s state office primary, and the general in November, we already have three elections in one six month period and the last thing we need is a fourth. I’d rather eliminate the primaries altogether (except for the presidential one) and moved to a ranked voting system. Let everybody run at once, regardless of party affiliation.

  18. ex-anonymous says:

    cassandra: i noted young’s lack of experience then and i’m noting it now. the booker stuff is overrated and his nonprofit work is not exactly political experience. his ideas are fine. i’m no big fan of purzycki. i just think he was the best choice this time around.

  19. ex-anonymous says:

    and by the way, cassandra, i also think your analysis was outstanding. doesn’t mean i have to agree with every bit of it.

  20. cassandra m says:

    i noted young’s lack of experience then and i’m noting it now. the booker stuff is overrated and his nonprofit work is not exactly political experience.

    FTR — your BS was more than this and it was the same kind of thing that Williams people and people like Pricilla Rakestraw were pushing. Uninformed, wrong and occasionally toxic.

    As for lack of experience — take a look at DDs map. Lack of experience doesn’t get you support all over the city and 234 votes within winning. As Purzycki noted on election night, *he’s* the one who has to introduce himself to Wilmington’s neighborhoods.

  21. cassandra m says:

    Best argument ever for DE to implement a runoff primary when no candidate reaches 40% of the vote.

    I’m a fan of this. And I think that this will go pretty far to bust up the toxic politics in the city, really.

  22. Pinky says:

    @ gymrat… ABSOLUTELY. 100% YES. it’s like you read my mind.

  23. anonymous says:

    I think the toxic politics of the city were mostly swept away on Tuesday.

    “Lack of experience doesn’t get you support all over the city and 234 votes within winning.”

    Actually, lack of experience is the only real knock on him, so it’s probably why he didn’t win. He got all those votes despite his lack of experience as well as because of it — that is, he’s a fresh new guy without the baggage of the city’s parochial politics, but he’s also inexperienced at dealing with people (unions) who will actively resist his changes.

    It’s a big if, but if Purzycki can clean up the cesspool of the city’s finances, he could leave the city on better footing for 2020.

  24. Ben says:

    Are there any figures on how many Republicans switched parties to vote for Purzycki?

  25. anonymous says:

    I was told 1,100 by someone involved with the Purzycki campaign.

  26. cassandra m says:

    I think the toxic politics of the city were mostly swept away on Tuesday.

    And I have some beachfront property in 40 Acres to sell you.

    Some of the folks who were retired on Tuesday were part of the problem, but there is still plenty of the old school political thinking and old school politicos out there. Hanifa Shabazz, Velda Jones-Potter up front, but then there are the usual operatives and some inbred infrastructure that has to be cleaned up. City Council is probably weaker than it ever has been.

    This is not done.

  27. anonymous says:

    I agree. Those are the people that perhaps Purzycki can clear out to give Eugene a better platform for his agenda.

    A weak city council is actually a good thing. It’s absurd to have a governing body so large for a city so small, and each one of them defends his or her little fiefdom to the exclusion of all else.

    BTW, give it 50 years and 40 Acres might be beachfront property, but I think the safer bet is Felton.

  28. cassandra m says:

    Those are the people that perhaps Purzycki can clear out to give Eugene a better platform for his agenda.

    I doubt this. Shabazz is an ally of the developers behind Purzycki and Jone-Potter teamed up with him too. Purzyki’s challenge will be to root out the deadwood in French St and that won’t be easy. Especially now since both Williams and Gregory are going to be looking for ways to protect their staff.

    Gregory had floated the idea of a committee to study reducing the size of City Council. No idea where that went to.

  29. Gymrat says:

    So Hanifa is certainly a step up from the dude from the also ran Undertaker biz. As to Velda yes a tough break she slid through but some comfort among all you libs can be taken from the Triple Cro$$ executed by the Rep from the 1st that eliminated KWS, TG and The Lady from Rehoboth Utah. That is certainly a feat that should bring smiles to faces around here and the Over/under betting on indictment can commence:)

  30. Joe Laux says:

    Josh, I see your point, and appreciate it. However, if I’m not mistaken, the legislature recently voted to move all primaries to March in presidential years. Since so many of DE’s elections (including the mayoral election) fall in the same year as the presidential (something I think is INSANE, btw!), we would be looking at the same number of elections (two primaries and the general) in the two election years that DE has (presidential and off year congressional).
    While I love the idea of nonpartisan elections, which is what one would be looking at in your scenario, these have a history of not going over with the electorate, for some ungodly reason. Case in point; Mike Bloomberg tried getting this past in his first term, and the voters overwhelmingly voted against it.
    The great thing about a 40% threshold is that, in a crowded field, candidates who have a following, like LBR did, will be safe, while those candidates who have the support of only about 25% of the voting population will be forced to prove that they have a wider appeal.

  31. Josh W says:

    Joe I’m not necessarily adverse to the idea of a runoff, I just think it’s a good idea to have the smallest amount of elections in a given season, lest we are all struck down by voter fatigue. I’m a political junkie, and even I’m worn out by three elections. A non-partisan open primary could be interesting, where all the candidates run against one another and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party or percentage won, would go on to face each other in the general. California has this system, and it’s resulted in two democrats going head to head this November for the open senate seat there.

    Also, the electorate might not have liked it in New York but the people of Delaware don’t have a mechanism to stop it, except by removing people from office through elections.

  32. anonymous says:

    Their staffs are the people I meant, not Hanifa Shabazz. She has never denied the rumor that she got a sweetheart deal on her Riverfront condo.

    The people taking orders from Buccini won’t cause trouble for Purzycki. The deadwood can.

  33. Gymrat says:

    Hopefully this is the end for the POS Rago:)

  34. bob smith says:

    Libertarian Candidate spot for Mayor is open. There is his chance to be a game changer!!!!