In a unanimous decision this past Friday, the Dewey Beach Board of Elections decided to reject a challenge filed by Dave Davis arguing that Comm. David Moskowitz, a fulltime Dewey Beach resident, was not eligible to hold office because he had recently placed his Dewey Beach residence in an LLC.
The board’s decision was supported by state and U.S. Supreme Court cases which have made it clear that persons who do not own property cannot be prohibited from running for office. Supporting that argument were cases such as Turner v. Fouche, 396 U.S. 346 (1970) and Gebelein Ex Rel. State v. Nashold from 1979.
Fred Townsend, attorney for the elections board, told the board that “The complainant [Davis] is asking you to disregard Delaware case law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions which recognize that it is a violation of the equal protection clause to require of residents who would desire to run for office that they also be landowners and none of the complainants wish to offer any support for the public policy behind this, which is to exclude people… I think it was never the intent in Dewey Beach that residents who don’t own land or have an interest in a leasehold be excluded from the right to run for office.”
Furthermore, Townsend said that in researching the town charter, a 2012 amendment did not require that a candidate also be a property owner. But this language had never been updated online and is suspected to be an inadvertent error of the scribner of the General Assembly. This had become the source of controversy.
After more than 100 minutes of discussion, all three members of the board voted to deny Davis’ challenge.