Posted: Oct. 5, 2004


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

William Swain Lee says Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is using crib sheets during their gubernatorial debates, bringing along five-by-seven cards so she can answer questions.

He also says she played hookey from a debate scheduled to be taped last Friday in Philadelphia for a Sunday morning broadcast by WPVI Channel 6 TV.

Lee, the Republican ex-judge trying to deny a second term to the Democratic governor, tattled on Minner during a "Road to Victory" dinner, sponsored last Friday by the Brandywine Region Republicans at the Brandywine Country Club.

It certainly is making the education issue personal, isn't it?

Lee, of course, is a graduate of Wilmington Friends School, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania law school. Minner dropped out of high school at 16 to help with the family finances and did not get her general equivalency degree until after she was widowed at 32 with sons to raise.

Lee told a crowd of about 160 Republicans, "The governor can deal cards better than anybody here."

He further suggested that Minner did not even write out the five-by-seven cards herself but cribbed her crib sheets from Gary B. Patterson, one of the governor's closest advisers. Patterson, a Republican, is the executive director of the Delaware Petroleum Council and the father of Gregory B. Patterson, the governor's campaign manager.

"The governor has never expressed a thought of her own," Lee said. "Gary Patterson is the one who's talking, and her mouth is the one that's moving."

That same evening, Lee's campaign e-mailed a press release criticizing Minner for missing the WPVI debate, even though she had said she would debate Lee on her record anytime, anywhere.

Greg Patterson acknowledged that the governor indeed does bring cards to the debates.

"Being prepared has never in my memory been seen as a bad thing," he said. "The governor does have five-by seven cards with her accomplishments on them. As you're in a roomful of people and you're trying to get through four years of very substantial accomplishments, she has a list of things she's done."

As for the debate that was skipped, Patterson says there are about a dozen others scheduled, all arranged for months. WPVI tried to set one up with about two weeks' notice and insisted it be taped in Philadelphia, a request that could not be accommodated.

"Between being governor and being a candidate, the schedule has been jammed," Patterson said.

It is one thing for Lee to make an issue out of not showing up for a debate, quite another to make one out of the five-by-seven cards. Perhaps the most famous card reader in politics was Ronald Reagan, who used four-by-six cards when he met with members of Congress, an ex-actor with his cue cards.

Republicans tend to think Reagan did just fine as president.