Historical Analysis: BSG Election Looks Strikingly Similar to the Dover, Delaware Town Comptroller Election of 1936

By NATHAN ASHANY Apr. 16, 2018

Dover, Delaware. 1936.

Incumbent Town Comptroller Sandford Barndtment announces he is stepping down from his post. Two main competitors emerge for the position. Leroy McGill Jr., the director of town sanitation, challenges Johnston P. Rickenbacker, Associate Superintendent of the Dover East school district, for the top seat. The campaign was more vicious than ever before, with McGill Jr. and Rickenbacker squaring off at a widely advertised and sparsely attended debate, the first of its kind in Dover. Trading jabs on issues such as public ash tray allocation and asbestos distribution, the candidates appeared neck-and-neck before the release of the final results.

By the end of the day, McGill Jr. was voted into office by his few supporters, as Rickenbacker failed to convince enough of his buddies to walk ten minutes to the polling station. Voter turnout was 6%. Almost all town policy remained unchanged under the new leader.

The recent election of Mohammed Nur as BSG President over Ben Painter is eerily similar to the Dover elections nearly eight decades earlier. McGill Jr. was an up-and-coming local political star who leveraged his connections in the small community to eke out a win over his opponents. Nur is an up-and-coming local political star who leveraged his connections in the small community to eke out a win over his opponents.

Rickenbacker relied on the same local name recognition as his opponent but was simply not able to convince enough his associates to head to the polls. Painter relied on the same local name recognition as his opponent but was simply not able to convince enough his associates to head to the polls.

The similarities are striking.

Dover Delaware in 1936 was a small town, and its Town Comptroller election, decided by the number of friends of the candidates, was inconsequential to both the course of history of the community and its members’ everyday lives. Bowdoin is a small college, its student government president election decided by… well, do we really have to spell it out for you?

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