Posted: Oct. 14, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Cross off Mike Castle and Pete du Pont. They are the entire list of Delaware Republicans who know for sure their party will not come calling to ask them to run for governor.

Only in the state constitution can past two-term governors be lumped into the same category as convicted felons. Ineligible to run.

The Republicans are not doing very well, trying to find someone for governor in 2012, not even if they stand on the banks of the Delaware and holler, "Red rover, red rover, Chris Christie come over."

Granted, the timing is bad for recruitment. Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, is up for re-election, and the state's voters have developed a habit of holding on to their governors until the constitution makes them find a new one.

Not even Ruth Ann Minner could put a stop to it. The voters have kept four consecutive governors in office -- du Pont and Castle for the Republicans and Tom Carper and Minner for the Democrats.

Still, this gubernatorial hole on the ballot is not a new problem for the Republicans, one of the surest of signs of how much they have fallen on hard times.

They had to scramble for a candidate the last time, even though the situation was as good as they could get. Not only was it an open race, but the Democrats could not make up their minds between Markell and John Carney and went to a primary.

The Republicans did think they had someone in 2008. They were figuring on Alan Levin, until he pulled a vanishing act, a human version of the Happy Harry's drugstores he used to own disappearing into Walgreens.

Levin went on the political lam, making his way into a candidate protection system, where he found cover as the economic development director in the Markell administration.

The Republicans were rocked. They wound up drafting Bill Lee, the retired judge who was their 2004 candidate for governor, while he was away on a family vacation in Disney World. The campaign did not end happily ever after.

What the Republicans really could use is a statewide officeholder to run. After all, the last time anyone was elected governor who had not previously run and won statewide, it was 1968.

The problem is, the only statewide officeholder the Republicans have is Tom Wagner, who has been the auditor for more than 20 years without budging. This is a politician committed to inertia.

The Republicans cannot really even turn to their legislators. This is the first election after redistricting, so all of them are up, even the state senators who normally serve staggered four-year terms. No one can run without risking a seat. More precisely, risking about $50,000-a-year that comes with the seat.

"It is still way early. We're going to have a quality candidate," insisted John Sigler, the Republican state chair.

Sigler says the party is talking to three people right now. Still, there is no buzz.

What is a party to do? All together now. Red rover, red rover, Chris Christie come over.