Alumnus runs for Delaware state Senate
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:04
Bryan Townsend, a university alumnus and lifelong Newark resident, is hoping to increase his role as a community leader by running for state Senate.
Townsend filed for candidacy in January for the District 11 Democratic primaries, which includes Newark and the university, and is currently held by the body’s President Pro-Tempore, Tony DeLuca (D-Varlano). The party’s primary election will occur on Sept. 11.
The 30-year-old said he was encouraged to run because he thinks there are unresolved problems in the area. He said he is most concerned about middle school and high school education, a lack of available jobs, especially in the construction industry, and the level of involvement of local constituents in political decisions.
“What’s really important is to have someone who is going to be pulling all the people together to find a solution,” Townsend said.
Townsend graduated from the university in 2004, with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and biology, and later receiving a master’s degree in economics. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy in Chinese studies at the University of Cambridge in 2006 and later acquired his Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School in 2009. He currently works as an associate attorney at Morris James LLP, a Wilmington law firm.
When he arrived at the university, he wanted to pursue a medical degree, but changed his mind after observing the state of his district.
“I think I took one political science course,” Townsend said. “I did much more community service and that’s really my background.”
After graduating from Yale, Townsend swam the English Channel to raise funds for the Haidian Peizhi Special School in Beijing, China. During the following summer, Townsend volunteered as a fireman at Rehoboth Beach.
Townsend said his mentors at the university, such as chemistry professor Susan Groh, inspired him to look at problems critically and question his environment.
“They influenced me to look at the way things are and really try to understand what’s going on, dig deeper than what is just on the surface,” Townsend said.
Groh said she has never met anyone else who is more dedicated to public service.
“If he sees something that needs to be done and is capable of doing it, he doesn’t walk past,” Groh said.
While she acknowledged that Townsend does not have much experience in public policy, she would still support him.
“It’s not going to be easy, especially without a strong organizational background,” Groh said. “But if I were in that district, I would vote for him.”
DeLuca and Joe Aronson, executive director of the Democratic State Committee, declined to comment on Townsend’s candidacy.
District 9 Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton), who has known Townsend for a year and a half, believes he will make a strong candidate.
“He’s smart, articulate, he’s enthusiastic and I think his chances of winning are good,” Peterson said.
Senior Gifty Abraham, president of the College Democrats, said he has spoken with Townsend and thinks he has strong ideas especially about educational reform.
Although the student group does not formally endorse Townsend, Abraham, said the club believes his background in volunteering will help his campaign.
“He’s young, so most people count him out right away and he does have tough competition,” Abraham said. “But in politics today you have to be careful not to write people off too quickly. He’s a strong candidate and we’re excited to see how his campaign develops.”
Townsend said he is running a grassroots campaign and has hired university students to help with the project.
Junior Jacob Weil, his campaign manager, said he thinks, if elected, Townsend will genuinely represent his district.
“He’s not a phony run-of-the-mill politician,” Weil said. “He cares. He will give back as much as he can. He does that already without being a politician.”
Townsend said he estimates that he spends 40 hours per week meeting with voters, calling them and talking to concerned residents at meetings. He also keeps up to date with legislative updates in Dover and plans to campaign more this summer.
He said he has received generous financial support for his campaign from donors, some of whom do not live in Delaware. Details about his fundraising will be available in August.
If elected, he said he intends to use his position working with the budget to make sure costs stay low for city residents and students and that the university is able to create jobs on campus.
“My job first and foremost is to listen to and represent the interests of the people in the district,” Townsend said. “A lot of those people may work at UD, they may send their children to UD, or they may be UD grads.”