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Can Vance Phillips Run?

Posted by Frank Knotts on Apr 8, 2014 in Blog

The following is an email exchange between Sussex County GOP Chairman John Rieley, and Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips (5th Councilmanic district). First is an email from Chairman Rieley, and then the response of Mr. Phillips.

“On Mar 30, 2014, at 4:56 PM, “John Rieley” wrote:

Vance, I received your e-mail regarding party unity and feel I can no longer delay a task that I would prefer I didn’t have to do. I was not able to attend the committee’s last Advisory Board meeting but the topic of your candidacy for the 5th council district came up and it was the unanimous vote of the RD chairs that they would request that you reconsider your candidacy for the 5th Council seat and seriously consider not running.

The position they took is that in light of the pending civil litigation you may be facing and at least the possibility of criminal charges being filed by the Attorney General is that there will be a cloud of uncertainty about your legal status that will almost certainly be exploited by your opponent and possibly the press as well. In the opinion of the Advisory Board, this situation has the strong potential to bring disrepute on the party if we do not take an pro-active moral position and are seen as lending support to your candidacy. I am sure that you perceived less than enthusiastic support as you have been reaching out to members of the committee and this is why.

To underscore their opposition to your candidacy, they have requested that I attempt to meet with or at least communicate with all the elected officials in the county to request that they not support you or withdraw what ever support they have already given. I have not done this and would earnestly prefer not to have to.

I had referenced in earlier communication with you that I believe you will have an extraordinarily difficult race in this cycle. It is the collective opinion of not only the RD chairs but other influential party members up to and including the state chair that 5th district is in jeopardy of being lost especially with the recent announcement of an opponent for you who will likely be a very credible candidate. If for some unforeseen reason, the 4th district race did not go as planned we would would run a high risk of losing control of the county Council.

I hope you understand that I take no pleasure in writing these things because in my opinion you have done excellent service during your tenure on the council. I have argued that it should be the voters decision as to who they want to represent them. Ultimately it will be your choice alone as to whether or not you continue in your candidacy or elect to retire and bow out with grace and your dignity for “personal” reasons which everyone would understand. It would pain me to see the ugly political battle that is likely shaping up.

I feel that I have done what I can to heal the rifts that formed in the party over the past couple of cycles but right now you are in a position to bring far more party unity than I am. I am surprised at your apparent lack of awareness of the political landscape with regard to your own race. This is surprising because you have always been very astute politically.

Vance, I too believe that it is time to get your own house in order. Actions such as sending flowers to Jim Dundas while he was in the hospital expose a blind spot you have. It was not appropriate and could be construed even as more than just inappropriate. I also have to tell you that I took flack over you and Sam dominating the Georgetown Chamber luncheon with the Governor the other day. You both made it difficult for our members to pose their own questions to the governor. I also heard negative feedback over you handing out election literature at the door after the meeting because the chamber strives to be non-partisan and somewhat a-political. The only reason I mention these things is because it relates back to judgement and being politically aware.

If you would like to meet to discuss this further, I would be willing to. I feel confident that you will take into account the considered opinions of your fellow republicans. Please keep me informed of any decisions you come to.

Regards, John Rieley Chair, Sussex County Republican Party”

The response was this,


Subject: Re: Responding to your e-mail on party unity

Date: March 30, 2014 7:06:00 PM EDT

To: John Rieley

Cc: “” , Linda Creasy , “” , “” , “” , “” , “” , Miguel , Matt Opaliski , “” , “” , “” , “”



Before I attempt to make heads or tails of this, let me make a few things clear from the outset. First of all, this is not a post that is intended to discuss, or settle the guilt or innocence of Vance Phillips, or the validity of the charges pending against him. This is a post about the current state of the Sussex County GOP, and whether or not Vance Phillips can mount a credible campaign for re-election. Any comments attempting to steer the conversation in that direction will be edited, redacted and or deleted. This is the only warning on this topic.

In writing this post I had to make some difficult choices, the first being whether to write it at all. But as I told Chairman Rieley, I can’t not know, the things I know. I feel compelled to write this so that the Republicans of Sussex County, and all the voters and citizens of the county have as much information as possible when making decisions about who to support, and who to believe in the upcoming campaigns.

The second decision was how much information to include, the easy answer is all of course. I had originally intended to exclude the email addresses that Mr. Phillips cc’d in his reply, but I feel that the people have a right to know who has been included in the behind the scenes discussion, and while I can’t identify all of the email addresses, I can tell you that they seem to be the Representative District Chairs that Mr. Rieley spoke of holding the Advisory Board meeting. The reason I did not exclude them was so that I could not be accused of editing for any purpose. The above email is exactly as it was presented to me by someone who I have every confidence in.

In preparing to write this post I felt I should allow Chairman Rieley to elaborate, or to clarify anything from the email that he felt would not be self-evident. His initial response was no comment, or more accurately, he stated that he would make no comment until he could speak with Mr. Phillips.

We then approached Duke Brooks who is the Communications Director for the Sussex County GOP Executive Committee, and in consultation with Chairman Rieley, they crafted this statement,

“The Sussex County Republican Committee Advisory board, meeting at Committee Headquarters in Georgetown on March 10th, passed two resolutions concerning Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips (R-5th).

Chairman John Reiley was urged to determine what support Councilman Phillips may have among GOP officials in Sussex County; the second resolution stated that the Committee Advisory Board would neither support nor endorse Councilman Phillips’ potential bid for re-election.

Chairman Reiley, acknowledging the scrutiny under which such a re-election campaign would function, in light of the pending civil litigation against Councilman Phillips, wrote to Councilman Phillips urging him not to run for re-election. Although Vance Phillips is not employed by the Committee’s Advisory Board, the Board clearly felt that the atmosphere in which the Councilman would have to undertake a re-election bid would undermine his own credibility and would be detrimental to the Republican Party’s ability to remain the majority party on the County Council and, by extention, its efforts to elect Republicans at the local and State levels.

The Chairman regretted having to take this action.

Duke Brooks

1st Election Dist. Committeeman, 14th Rep. Dist.

Communications Director

Sussex County Republican Committee

P.O. Box 388 Georgetown, DE 19947

P: 302.856.6323 C:302.245.0719″

So as you can see this statement confirms the content of the email. I did not bother to contact Mr. Phillips since I assume under advice from legal council he would be a no comment.

So what does all of this mean? Well on the surface it is clear that the RD Chairs of the Sussex County GOP have taken a no confidence vote in Vance Phillips ability to mount a vigorous campaign for re-election.

I have to say, this is a valid view-point considering Mr. Phillips is facing some very serious charges in a civil suit. Combine that with the fact that Mr. Phillips is still recovering from his injuries suffered in a flying accident, and the question is a valid one. Can Vance Phillips run for re-election in a manner that gives him any real chance to win?

Considering Mr. Phillips’ channeling of General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe, in his one word answer of “NUTS”, it is clear that Mr. Phillips has not come to that conclusion as of yet.

But let us also look at the larger picture of what this email exchange shows. It shows that, while not so long ago, many of the very people calling for Vance Phillips to stand down for the good of the party, in some closed-door executive session of party leadership, these were the very same people condemning Ron Sams and others for manipulating campaigns and candidates.

Is this so very different? The Sussex GOP spent month, after month, after month re-writing the rules of the committee, agonizing over the placement of a comma here and a semi-colon there. All in the name of empowering the ”PEOPLE”! To in effect cut the head off of the perceived snake.

And now look at us. Meeting quietly in an executive session, one in which the Chairman wasn’t even present, to not only discuss such a bold move as pulling support from an incumbent Republican, but actually passing two resolution to force the Chairman to contact the GOP elected officials to strong-arm them into not supporting Mr. Phillips.

What happened to all that big talk of letting the people decide? Have the so-called outsiders become that which they fought so hard to remove from the party? Have they become the “Lords of the Backrooms”?

I would also like to point out that this clandestine meeting (okay it was their regular AB meeting, held at its regular time, but I wanted to work in the word clandestine) was held prior to the monthly meeting of the entire Executive Committee on March the 10th. Now considering all we have heard for four years is about the power of the people, and we the people, one has to question why such an important subject as having the Chairman instructing elected officials to pull their support of another elected official, was not brought before the entire Committee? You know, so the people could have their say in the matter.
Is it because those who once fought against the “ESTABLISHMENT” have now become the “ESTABLISHMENT”?

Are they now drunk on the power that they once reviled? The self-same people who once accused any and all in a position of leadership of being corrupt, have they been corrupted by the power they so detested only four years ago?

One could come to that conclusion it would seem.

There may also be another undercurrent at work here. It seems as though some of the players in this Greek Tragedy are caught in a perplexing conundrum. While many of these people were very supportive of using primaries to remove Republicans they considered to be RINOs, they now see that some of their favored incumbent TEA candidates may be facing primaries. Surprise, surprise they are no longer so fond of primaries.
So Instead of simply putting up a primary candidate to run against Mr. Phillips, which would make it hard to argue against the primaries of their favored ones, they have chosen to go behind closed doors and do exactly that which they condemned others of doing only four short years ago.

It is a sad day that the very people who should be calling for party unity, have chosen to take such a divisive tact, not the fact that they feel no confidence in Mr. Phillips, that actually has merit, but the fact that they chose to do so in secrecy instead of in the light of transparency.

The question is not simply, “Can Vance Phillips Run?”, the question is also, will the Republican voters allow the Sussex GOP to become simply a new version of an old problem?

The next Executive Committee meeting will be held at the Georgetown CHEER Center,on April 14th at 7 pm, I encourage every Republican rank and file voter to show up and demand to be heard on this subject, so that “We The People” will be more than just lip service to the uninformed.

I also encourage those who voted no confidence in Vance Phillips to stand up proudly and own it, make your case to the people, and let the people decide.


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