Posted: Oct. 31, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Halloween has nothing on an election when it comes to bringing the skeletons out of their closets.

This election year has been extraordinary for private acts that became public self-destruction. Not one, not two, but three candidates had only themselves to blame for getting spooked off the ballot.

This does not even count Sher Valenzuela, who remains a viable Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, despite her compunction to disclose that she is a pro-life candidate who had an abortion 30 years ago.

Throw in John Henriksen, the Family Court judge who became a judicial RINO (Removed In Name Only), and all three branches of government had skeletons exposed.

It is a reminder once again this is a very small state, and there are no secrets in Delaware. For anyone in public life, it is no place to try whistling past the graveyard.

1. Eric Bodenweiser flees from the ballot.

Just when Bodenweiser was sure he was going to be a state senator in Sussex County, his past came back to haunt him. He withdrew his candidacy days before he was indicted on 113 counts of child sex crimes, allegedly committed on an accuser who had been silent for more than 20 years.

There has never been a legislative race like this one.

Bodenweiser won  the Republican nomination by taking out Joe Booth, a 10-year legislator. Sitting senators do not fall easily, but Booth irked the voters by pulling a fast one to get himself a school district job and a double public paycheck.

It should have made Bodenweiser, who was something of a local celebrity as a leading Tea Partier, a shoo-in over Jane Hovington, the Democratic candidate, in a county that likes its candidates on the conservative side. When the Republicans scrambled to file Brian Pettyjohn, a past mayor of Georgetown, as a write-in candidate, however, it was clear there was a problem.

Politics secretly percolated with the reason behind it. The indictment finally let the voters in on it, too.

The Republicans went to court to elevate Pettyjohn to a full-fledged candidate. They battled against the state, the Democratic Party and Hurricane Sandy to get it done.

Pettyjohn secured his spot on the ballot by Mischief Night. How fitting.

2. The bell tolls for Henriksen.

Henriksen was kicked out of the Family Court, but not out of the judicial pension plan, for pursuing an inappropriate romantic relationship with a lawyer who had cases before him and secretly coaching her on legal issues in 2010.

Although the Court on the Judiciary, which hears cases of judicial misconduct, stripped Henriksen of his judgeship in May, it essentially stayed its own order, letting him hang around, not judging, until he could qualify for his pension.

Henriksen's final day is this Friday, Nov. 2. In Mexico, it is observed as the Day of the Dead.

3. Ron Poliquin gets suspended from law and politics.

Poliquin was juggling a law practice and a campaign as a Republican candidate against Darryl Scott, a Democratic state representative from Dover, even as the Supreme Court was looming.

The court suspended Poliquin from practicing law for six months and a day for neglecting cases while he was addicted to prescription drugs. It was too much of a blow for his candidacy.

One thing led to another, and Poliquin dropped out of the race in a double whammy.

4. Now substituting for Bennett? Bennett.

A first drunken driving offense was not enough to keep Brad Bennett from running in 2010 as a Democratic state representative from Dover and getting re-elected. A second one, this time also sideswiping a police car, was.

A second Bennett was ready to take over, though. His wife Andria, a legislative aide, filed in his place and won a primary resoundingly enough to prove she was a candidate in her own right, not just some mutant political creation that could be called "Brandria."

5. A letter of mysterious origins bedevils Vance Phillips.

"An Anonymous Sussex County Citizen" got Legislative Hall all worked up in June by sending the entire General Assembly a sinister letter accusing Phillips, a Republican on the Sussex County Council, of seducing a 17-year-old girl while they were working together on a congressional campaign two years ago.

Phillips retained a lawyer who called it character assassination "launched from the darkness," but the letter set off a police investigation that has yet to be resolved.

Phillips is not up for re-election this year, but the accusation is still out there, flickering indistinctly.

6. John Atkins gets in a scrape over a tire fire.

Come to think of it, all the howling about Atkins, the Democratic state representative from Millsboro, seems a little silly, right?