Del. Lawmaker to Retire; Republicans Look to Capture Seat - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Lawmaker to Retire; Republicans Look to Capture Seat

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BETHANY BEACH, Del. - A longtime Delaware lawmaker from Sussex County plans to retire from public service.

State Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, said he will not seek reelection at the end of his current term. Bunting, 67, has served in the state Senate since 1996 and spent 12 years in the House of Representatives.

"My wife and I had been thinking about this for some time and we came to the conclusion now is the time for me to make the announcement," Bunting said.

The announcement this week before the Democratic caucus caught some off guard. Bunting said concerns over his health following a 2008 kidney transplant did not play a major role in his decision.

Bunting, a former United States Marine, has been married to his wife Donna for 44 years. The retiring lawmaker was first elected to the house in 1982, but lost the next election after his first term. Two years later, he reclaimed the seat.

Bunting was well known for his push to complete the new Indian River Inlet Bridge. Looking back at the bills and projects he's worked on, Bunting said he will miss the people the most.

"I think the day-to-day work, working with people, people who have all types of issues that need help," Bunting said.

Meanwhile, Republicans praised Bunting's service while relishing in the opportunity to take over the seat. Democrats control 14 of the 21 seats in the state Senate. Republicans need to hold their current districts and flip four seats to regain the majority; some see Sussex County as the path to victory.

Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, is considered a front runner for Bunting's seat. Hocker's house district overlaps with parts of the Senate district.

Over the telephone, Hocker said he is interested in running for the seat but would first need to discuss the idea with his family and employees at his business.

Republicans are also eyeing the seat held by Sen. Robert Venables, D-Laurel. The longtime lawmaker is 79 and represents a conservative district. Venables said he will run for reelection this year. If he wins, Venables would be up for reelection again in 2014; the next term is shortened because of census redistricting.

A newly created state Senate seat in the Lewes and Rehoboth Beach area is also up for grabs this year.

As for Bunting, he plans spend more time on his insurance business and with his wife and family.

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