DOVER - In an emotional speech in front of his colleagues in the House, Rep. Brad Bennett, D-Dover, announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection at the end of the legislative session on June 30.
"Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence and that of the House, I hope I can ensure that the 32nd district is not without representation in the closing days," he said. "I will retire and not seek reelection to this House and I will devote my time to taking care of myself and my family."
The representative was arrested April 15 on a driving under the influence charge after Wilmington police said he sideswiped a department vehicle and left the scene of the accident. It was his second DUI arrest since Oct. 3, 2010.
Rep. Bennett was arraigned on May 16 but a court date has not been set.
Immediately after his April 15 arrest Rep. Bennett checked himself into rehab for alcoholism at Dover Behavioral Health System. He then moved to long-term rehabilitation at Father Martin Ashley's in Havre de Grace, Md. after announcing his intentions to do so in a letter read into the record of the House on April 24.
After he made the announcement Monday, legislators from both sides of the aisle offered their support to the representative with many of them physically embracing Rep. Bennett.
House Majority Leader Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, said after the representative's speech that he supported Rep. Bennett's decision.
"At this point it's his decision and as far as I'm concerned I think it's a just decision," he said. "I think he needs some time to take care of his family and his business."
House Speaker Rep. Robert Gilligan, D-Sherwood Park, said he too agreed with the decision made by Rep. Bennett.
"He made the right decision for himself, for his treatment program and for his family," he said. "With a lot of hard work, support and blessings from God, he'll come out of this a better person."
Rep. Gilligan said Rep. Bennett requested the opportunity to address the House when the two met last week.
House Majority Whip Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, said Rep. Bennett's choice to announce his decision before the House is commendable.
"I think he should be commended for his courage," she said. "It takes a lot to stand up in front of all of us and do that."
Rep. Bennett was first elected to the House in 2008. His late father, Edward J. Bennett, served in the same seat for 18 years.