Posted: Oct. 29, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Jefferson was not mentioned at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the Delaware Democrats' biggest event of the year. Neither was Jackson.

Instead, that famous Delawarean-through-birth was mentioned. Ted Cruz.

Yes, Ted Cruz, he of the 16-day government shutdown, the Tea Party Republican senator from Texas, a man who acts like he gladly would have played the piano accompaniment as Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

That Ted Cruz, and he has a Delaware connection. Tom Carper was one of the first people here to learn about it. He explained how he did in a brief conversation before the dinner.

When Carper was elected governor in 1992, he benefited from a new governors' school hosted by his fellow governors. When he was elected to the Senate in 2000, he decided to import the concept as a crash course for new senators, and one of them from the 2012 election was Cruz.

"His reputation preceded him, but I think I can get along with anyone. Boy, did I blow that one," Carper quipped.

Anyway, they chatted. It came up that Cruz's mother was originally a Delawarean, although she lives in Texas now. This biographical nugget rises in significance the more Cruz is regarded as a presidential candidate for 2016, because it is what makes him a natural born citizen under the Constitution and eligible to run.

A birth certificate, released by Cruz, showed he was born in 1970 in Canada to his Cuban-born father named Rafael Cruz and his Wilmington-born mother named Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson.

Tom Carper and Ted Cruz. The calm and the storm. T.C. and T.C. Never before has a set of initials been so schizophrenic.

Carper was hardly the only Democrat to be provoked by Cruz. As a matter of fact, it was practically the theme for the speakers at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, held Monday at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 74 hall south of Newark with about 500 people attending.

Chris Coons, the other Democratic senator, had words for Cruz, too. "I sit directly opposite Ted Cruz on the Judiciary Committee. It is a challenge to be a man of peace," Coons cracked.

John Daniello, the Democratic state chair, alluded to Cruz in his partisan definition of the difference between the two parties. "They want to shut down government," he said. "Our mission is simple -- provide for all Americans a good education, so they can get a good job with a living wage, so they can buy a decent home and live in a safe environment."

The keynote speaker was Paul Begala, the witty political consultant and television presence who worked with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He had something to say about Cruz and the government shutdown, too.

"He's a genius, Senator Cruz, he is, one of the finest minds of the 12th Century," Begala jibed. "They drove the favorability of the Republican Party so low, lower than Watergate. . . . I'm like, go, Ted, go."

In an odd-numbered year, the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in the fall is usually the warm-up for the election a year away, but in this case the coming campaign hardly came up, and no wonder.

It is hard for the Democrats to go on the attack when the Republicans are so depleted, they have yet to recruit a single candidate to run against the Democrats' statewide officeholders who are up for election in 2014.

Not all of the top of the Democratic ticket even was there. Coons was, but John Carney, the congressman, was in Washington for votes. Beau Biden, the attorney general, missed the dinner for a National Guard obligation as a JAG officer.

Chip Flowers, the treasurer, somehow showed up, even though the menu was only pedestrian chicken, nothing so sumptuous as his farmers omelet, wheat toast, pancakes, two orders of bacon, two orders of apple juice, orange juice and a small pot of coffee. (People could read about Flowers' breakfast spread, the subject of an investigative tour de force, in the Sunday paper.)

The Democrats could not go to war against the Republican opponents they did not have, so they settled for the one they did have. Ted Cruz, a Delawarean-through-birth.