Posted: Oct. 6, 2006


No operators are standing by

The Delaware Republicans continue to bet the franchise on the attorney general's race, partially because they have a quality candidate who may be their last best chance in reversing the statewide Democratic trend, and partially because they cannot stand for the Democrats to have a legacy candidate running.

The Republicans thought they owned that one. Charles "the du Pont" Copeland for governor, anyone?

The party is so intent on electing Ferris W. Wharton and beating Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the senator's son, that its state headquarters in Wilmington has become Wharton Central. It also has spent considerable money rolling out four political spots on radio and one on television.

Except for a closed circle of Republicans, no one knows how much money has been spent on the advertising, and they are not saying.

"It's kind of like the family recipe. We don't get into it," said David A. Crossan Sr., the Republicans' executive director.

Democrats estimate the advertising must be costing more than $100,000. The  Republicans' financial disclosure reports, last filed before the primary election on Sept. 12, indicate it was in the neighborhood of $40,000 back then. The reports show the party paying that amount to MH Media, the political consultant handling the Wharton account.

All of the spots are a variation on the Republicans' theme that Wharton has the experience to be attorney general and Biden does not, and depending on the thrust of the advertising, they urge the listeners/viewers to "call Beau Biden" or "call Ferris Wharton" to tell them what you think.

Some of the spots probably would have more credibility if they bothered to include the phone number that the Republicans want to be called. The ones saying "call Beau Biden" give the number for his campaign office, but the ones saying "call Ferris Wharton" neglect to do the same.

No sense taking the chance of tying up Wharton's phone line, right?

Call Republican state headquarters at 651-0260. Tell them you want Ferris Wharton's phone number!

Only in Delaware and then some

In Delaware, people seem to think they know everybody else, and in Sussex County, it is even more so.

With a county population of about 177,000, sometimes there are not enough people to go around, so they better be prepared to wear a lot of hats and not hold too many grudges, because every resentment is one less person who can be useful.

Take the case of William Swain Lee, who has worn the hats of Superior Court judge, Republican candidate for governor in 2004 and these days as Sussex County Republican chair, not to mention his longstanding status as all-around-sage-about-town.

Bill Lee is recovering from two-week-old surgery, which coincidentally had him in Beebe Medical Center -- where he has another hat as vice chair of the board -- when U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a fellow Republican, arrived from his beach house because of a stroke and later was airlifted upstate for treatment.

Lee, who is a fit 70 years old, was surprised to find himself dealing with a health matter. "I told everybody I was God's Honda. I was never going to break down," he said.

With Election Day approaching, Lee needed help with the Sussex Republicans' get-out-the-vote operation. He found exactly the person he wanted for the $1,000-a-week job in David M. Burris, a 31-year-old Milton resident who could arrange to take off 35 days from his job as a real estate agent in Lewes for politics.

Burris knows politics. He worked on the campaigns of state Reps. Joseph W. Booth and Gerald W. Hocker, both Sussex County Republicans. Oh, yes, Burris also happens to be the son of John M. Burris, a onetime legislator who ran for governor in 2000 and nearly was upended in the Republican primary by Bill Lee. It took the wind out of John Burris, and he never had a chance to keep Ruth Ann Minner from becoming the Democratic governor.

Only in Sussex County would the Republican chair turn to the son of the rival, whose campaign he crippled, to bail him out and have the son say yes, no hard feelings.

"All that 2000 stuff is history," Dave Burris said.