Posted: Jan. 26, 2007



Democratic Party unity may not be the only fracture if Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell take their unfolding rivalry for governor to a primary in 2008.

The recent practice of having the gubernatorial candidate select a ticket mate for lieutenant governor could be broken, too.

Although the Delaware constitution requires the governor and lieutenant governor to be elected separately, the only vote that really has mattered for lieutenant governor for almost 20 years has been the one from the governor-to-be.

The voters have gone along with it, electing Republicans Michael N. Castle and Dale E. Wolf in 1988, Democrats Thomas R. Carper and Ruth Ann Minner in 1992 and 1996, and Minner and Carney in 2000 and 2004.

With the potential for disarray at the top of the Democratic ticket, there are stirrings below for lieutenant governor. Candidates are taking advantage of the uncertainty to strike out on their own, as newly filed campaign finance reports show.

The Democrats have three potential candidates with money in their treasuries. Insurance Commissioner Matthew P. Denn, the only one who has run and won statewide before, is the front runner with $204,000, followed by Wilmington Council President Theodore Blunt with $75,000 and state Rep. Peter C. Schwartzkopf with $64,000.

A Republican field has not materialized yet.

Denn and Blunt say they are committed to the race, while Schwartzkopf's status is murkier. He has not discouraged talk about his candidacy, but it is likely that he could be drawn away by the lure of a legislative leadership post.

If the Democrats win control of the state House of Representatives, he is regarded as a prime possibility for majority leader. It could be a lot more attractive than sitting in a chair in the state Senate and working with a governor who may or may not give him much to do.

Denn and Blunt both say they are running on their own, without linkage to whatever happens on the gubernatorial track. Blunt actually has experience at staying out of the way. When he was elected as City Council president in 2000, he avoided the Democrats' contentious mayoral primary in which James M. Baker ousted James H. Sills Jr.

"If there's a race between Carney and Markell, I certainly would not get in the middle of that," Blunt said.

It makes sense. Candidates can make enough enemies on their own without importing any from somebody else's race.

Legal shuffle

Before Matt Denn was elected insurance commissioner in 2004, he worked for a time as counsel to the governor. Now Joseph C. Schoell, his successor, is leaving the Minner administration, in his case to return to private practice.

Schoell starts next Thursday at the Wilmington office of WolfBlock, a Philadelphia-based firm with serious designs on increasing its profile in Delaware.

WolfBlock recently joined forces with Robert L. Byrd, one of the premier lobbyists in Dover, to run its local government relations operation, and the managing partner here is Thomas P. McGonigle, a former counsel to the governor during the Carper administration. The office will grow to eight lawyers when Schoell arrives.

There is no word yet on a replacement for Schoell in the governor's office.

Schoell's departure comes after he finished a lot of the heavy lifting for a comprehensive refashioning of the workers' compensation law, which was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor earlier this month.

There is no chance that politicians will let him walk away entirely. Schoell is going to be a partner in a major law firm, so they will pursue him for his money instead of his public life. Look for his name to appear among the contributors in campaign finance reports.