Lincoln is a small, unincorporated town with just a few thousand residents.
But it was the center of the political universe in Sussex County on Monday night when about 15 candidates made their election pitch for various state and county offices.
"If the candidates are willing to come to a town like Lincoln, some from as far away as Wilmington, I think it shows that they're willing to walk the walk and not just talk the talk," said Will Fox, the president of the Greater Lincoln Civic Association, who served as moderator at the organization's third biennual candidates forum.
Few Democratic candidates attended Monday's forum at Christian Tabernacle Church on Johnson Road, which left the event with a largely cordial, albeit decidedly-conservative flavor with Republicans and Libertarians taking turns giving three-minute speeches at the podium.
The most time was devoted to the U.S. Senate race for the seat currently held by Democrat Tom Carper, a 12-year incumbent who previously served in the U.S. House, as Delaware's governor and as the state's treasurer.
During their introductory speeches, Independent candidate Alex Pires, a Dewey Beach attorney and businessman, vowed to serve only a single term if elected to the office, while retired Army National Guard Major Gen. Hank McCann, who spoke on behalf of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Wade, said his candidate believes in term limits and would serve no more than eight years.
In response to a question from the audience about cuts in defense funding, Wade emulated Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention by pulling up a chair and asking the absent Carper for his response.
"[Wade] certainly does not believe in this pacifism that we're creeping into that Obama is doing," he said. "The Middle East is in flames … and what do we do. Tom Carper is running up and down the state and wants to put in a national park while we've got these kinds of things going on."
When asked if he would have time to serve for "normal, average" constituents, Pires said he would remain in Sussex County.
"I'm not going to spend any time in Wilmington," he said. "Wilmington gets a disproportionate amount of the attention. We can't get the three Cs [Carper, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. John Carney] to come down here."
Fox also noted that while Carper has agreed to debate his opponents, no dates have been set.
"If you have any questions and you're calling Sen. Carper," he said, "you might want to ask where are you, why you didn't come to Lincoln and why didn't you at least send at least one spokesman willing to talk about your platform and when you're willing to debate."
Page 2 of 3 - Later, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Cragg and Milford resident Sher Valenzuela, the Republican candidate for governor, also addressed the audience, as did Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Jess McVay and lieutenant governor candidate Margie Waite-McKeown. Incumbent Democrats Jack Markell and Matt Denn were not present and did not send representatives.
While Cragg criticized the Markell administration for providing $24 million in grants and other incentives to support Fisker Automotive's as-yet-unrealized plans to convert the former General Motors Boxwood auto assembly plant in Newport into a manufacturing facility for hybrid sedans, Valenzuela took the incumbents to task for the economic instability she said is contributing to a rise in violent crime.
"When did you hear about home invasions three years ago," she said, touching on a robbery in Lincoln this week in which a 48-year-old man was beaten. "Right now, we have headlines from Greenwood to Greenville that are talking about people breaking into homes and it's not only in Wilmington, although we are living in a warzone in Wilmington. Where are the incumbents right now when it comes to downstate Delaware?"
McVay and McKeown, meanwhile, told the audience they are less interested in seeking election than advancing their party's platform and encouraging voters to consider third-party candidates.
"We're trying to replace the old paradigm of America as a two-party system with a new paradigm of America as a multi-party system," McVay said. "Do you feel as I do that it's a crying shame Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can't both lose … The real wasted vote is the one you cast for the lesser-of-two-evils candidates you don't really care for."
The only Democratic candidates to attend Monday's forum in Lincoln were those running for county office. They included incumbent County Councilwoman Joan Deaver, County Council candidate and Greenwood resident Gary Wolfe and John Brady, one of three candidates for county clerk of the peace.
"I'm glad we were here, because otherwise it would have been one-sided," said Deaver, who currently is the only Democrat on the five-member council. "This is part of my district so it was important for me to be here so the people can hear what I have to say."
Several people who attended Monday's forum said they found the event helpful and informative.
"I was interested in the federal office people, because while I think the state people are very receptive, I find our federal delegation to be lacking," said Slaughter Beach Mayor Amy J. Reed Parker. "This region is facing important issues right now and I don't think we're getting the proper representation."
Lincoln Civic Association members Henry and Anita Mohl said they felt it was their civic duty to hear from the candidates.
"It's also our civic duty to make them do what they're supposed to do," Henry said.
Page 3 of 3 - A Smyrna resident who identified herself only as Tracie J. said she was disappointed that several of the Democratic incumbents did not attend.
"I wanted to hear from Carper and Markell, but they weren't here," she said. "Although I'm not going to endorse anyone yet, I was impressed by the independent candidates that I heard tonight. Some of them blew me away and I'm a Republican."