The Delaware Court of Chancery ruled Friday afternoon that Brian Pettyjohn’s name will be placed on the ballot in the 19th Senate district election, replacing Eric Bodenweiser, the GOP nominee for the seat. Bodenweiser withdrew from the contest on October 17th amidst rumors of serious criminal acts in his past.
The Party’s efforts to get Pettyjohn, who filed as a write-in candidate on October 1st, on the ballot, began almost immediately after Bodie’s withdrawal papers were filed.
Elaine Manlove, Delaware’s Commissioner of Elections, interpreted the law as presenting a very specific bar to simply replacing one candidate’s name with another’s. Her decision hinged on the term “incapacity,” which the commissioner construed very narrowly.
The State GOP’s counsel, Richard Forsten, Esq., wanted “Bodie”, shortly after he suspended his campaign (an action having no legal meaning under the election code), to sign an affidavit saying that he was under tremendous emotional pressure and would be unable to further campaign or even serve if elected. Forsten also prepared a letter to the Commissioner, citing legal precedent for a “liberal interpretation” of election law, but it was not delivered.
On Monday, October 22nd, several hours after this writer asked Bodie unsuccessfully to sign the affidavit, Delaware State Police arrested him after an indictment, alleging 113 felonious sexual acts with a then-underage male between 1987 and 1990, was unsealed. The purported victim, in an off-air interview with WXDE-FM’s Dan Gaffney, said he came forward only after both his parents died and Bodie “won an election.” Gaffney reported Tuesday the out-of-state alleged victim, said to be a twice-convicted felon, was motivated by his desire to ensure Bodenweiser would never have power over others. Bodie posted a $250,000.00 bond Tuesday afternoon and was released with a GPS ankle bracelet and a prohibition against contact with children. This writer was unable to make contact with him, other than an email, after he returned home.
On Thursday, the Delaware Republican Committee filed in Chancery Court, asking the Court to order Pettyjohn’s name onto the ballot. On Friday, Wm. Manning, Esq., formerly legal advisor to Governor Pierre “Pete” DuPont, successfully argued that the terms of Bodie’s bail, prohibiting contact with children, would prevent him from either campaigning or, if he won the election, serving as a state senator, since children are present in Legislative Hall regularly. The Commissioner of Elections and the Delaware Democratic Party opposed the Committee’s motion, which was granted by Chancellor Leo Strine at about 4pm Friday.