Posted: Oct. 17, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Not just the press was in attendance last week when Lt. Gov. John Carney presented a position paper, focusing on the science sector of the economy, as part of his platform for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Moments after Carney finished speaking to reporters at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute in Newark, someone left in a Volkswagen Jetta. The license plate frame was lettered with "powered by biodiesel," which was appropriate enough, but there was something about a couple of Markell bumper stickers that seemed decidedly out of place.

The Jetta was driven directly to the Newark headquarters of Treasurer Jack Markell, the rival Democratic candidate for governor.

Political espionage?

Andrew Roos, who is Markell's campaign manager, owned up immediately to sending an aide to Carney's presentation. Nothing sinister, Roos said, nothing more than letting Markell know what Carney was saying so Markell was ready for questions from the press about it.

David Hamrick, a campaign consultant for Carney, shrugged it off. "This is a campaign about ideas and who has the right vision to move Delaware forward. If Jack is sending someone over, maybe they're interested in hearing John's ideas for the future, and that's great," he said.

Hamrick hedged about whether Carney's camp intended ever to send anyone to watch Markell. "That's a good question," he said.

Carney's campaign actually did know who Markell's staffer was. In a show of smart politics, Carney never acknowledged the intrusion. The most famous politician who did was George Allen, a Virginia Republican, and he lost his seat in the U.S. Senate by doing it.

No "Macaca Moment" for Carney here.

# # #

Even in these times of turbulence and unease, incumbency remains the best ticket to political victory in Delaware.

The proof is the way the 2008 election is shaping up. There is a multi-candidate scramble for the openings for governor, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner, but not much more than hemming-and-hawing for candidates against Joe Biden, the Democratic senator, and Mike Castle, the Republican congressman.

No mystery why. The contemplation of political suicide can be a real ambition killer.

Republican interest in running against Biden has been zilch. Democrats have made some noise about taking on Castle, but not much else has happened. The latest Democrat to take a pass on the congressional race is Chris Bullock, who was a Republican during the last election.

Bullock, the pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Wilmington, is immersed in a project to erect a sanctuary in New Castle. The building campaign looks a lot more promising, as long as it is not compromised by a political campaign.

"It's too difficult to do both," Bullock said.

Either Castle or Biden would be trouble to dislodge. A poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey earlier this month found Castle is viewed favorably by 63 percent and Biden by 57 percent of registered voters.

Even better for Castle, 59 percent of the Democrats like him. By contrast, a robust 50 percent of the Republicans cannot stand Biden.

Those Republicans constitute the famous "Biden Haters" who are a staple of state politics, although their silence going into the 2008 campaign season is turning them into a sullen chapter of "Biden Haters Anonymous."

Getting beaten by Biden's kid in the last election must have really sobered them.