Posted: Oct. 12, 2006


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Ferris W. Wharton, the Republican candidate for attorney general, began his remarks Thursday at the Wilmington Rotary Club by saying politics and campaigning were new to him.

Then he proved it. He made fun of the Delaware State Fair.

There are certain elements in Delaware that are not to be taken lightly. Caesar Rodney's ride. Blue Hen football. The Court of Chancery. State Sen. Nancy Cook. The Delaware State Fair.

Wharton, a career prosecutor, told the crowd there were some things about politics he did not like. One of them was having to campaign at the fair in Harrington last summer, so he missed his annual bicycle ride across Iowa, a famous event out there like the Bike to the Bay here, only longer.

He said the state fair was "an experience in itself, too."

The wisecrack got some laughs from the upstate Rotarians, sitting amid the gleaming gold of the Hotel du Pont, but it did not get one from Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Biden was standing a lectern away from Wharton during their joint appearance at the Rotary. He shot to the defense of the state fair as if he were Barbara Frietchie, the Civil War braveheart, snatching up the Stars & Stripes when Stonewall Jackson's men tried to shoot it down -- Say if you will that I am Joe's kid/But speak not of the Fair as you just did.

"It's where the leaders of the largest business in the state go for a week," Biden said, adding he campaigned at the state fair for nine out of 10 days -- "and enjoyed it."

State Sen. Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Senate president pro tem who is "Mr. State Fair," was thunderstruck when he was told of Wharton's remarks. Adams is a Democrat, but his love of the state fair knows no politics.

"I was raised on a farm, and to see all the animals and the exhibits -- we had more exhibits this year than ever before -- it's just part of Delaware and part of the summer. If you want to see someone, you go to the fair," said Adams, an agri-businessman from Bridgeville.

"We're really proud of our Delaware State Fair. I can't imagine, if he's running for attorney general and wants to be elected, to say that."

Someone had better tell Wharton not to suggest that the first state to ratify the Constitution really ought to have been New Jersey. . . .