Posted: Oct. 26, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The mayor is not huggin' thugs. For a while there, it looked like Dennis Williams was not huggin' Joe Biden, either.

Yikes. This political misfire was so bad, it put Williams right up there with the Benghazi committee for coming up with the worst week ever.

It was enough to leave people with political whiplash, trying to figure out whether Williams intended to support Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton for president.

It was also enough to leave Williams with a political hangover. Who would believe it was possible to get on the wrong side of Delaware's favorite son and the Democratic front-runner all at once?

Talk about a masterpiece of bad timing. Exactly one day before Biden went to the Rose Garden to rule himself out of the presidential race, Clinton's campaign released a list of 59 African-American mayors endorsing her for president. There as #57 in alphabetical order was Dennis P. Williams, Mayor of Wilmington, DE.

Oops. Williams summoned up a little Twitter magic to react, retract, retreat, whatever, tweeting, "Incorrect info about an endorsement, I've known @VP Biden since I was 12 yrs old, if he chooses to run, He will receive my support!"

That was last Tuesday. Biden was out last Wednesday, and the mayor was back tweeting, "Now that my friend @VP Biden has announced his decision, as the Mayor of Delaware's largest City I support @HillaryClinton for President."

These things do happen, as Clinton's camp should know. After all, Bill Clinton sounded so sure he did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Biden probably gets it, too, or else he would not have been out there explaining he was with Obama in wanting to go forward with the raid on Osama bin Laden, even if he had appeared to say otherwise on earlier occasions. What should people believe, Biden or their own lyin' ears?

Not that Delaware politics has not seen the old switcheroo before.

A switch in time saved mine

Jane Brady was standing at her own fund-raiser for her re-election campaign, when she conceded she might not actually run for a fourth term in 2006 as the Republican attorney general. True story.

Brady was hearing footsteps. Beau Biden was getting ready to run for the Democrats.

What followed was the political equivalent of a reverse Double Lutz with a Level 4 degree of difficulty. It came in the form of a deal.

Brady got an appointment from Ruth Ann Minner, who was the Democratic governor, for a judgeship that had to go to a Republican, anyway, and Minner got to appoint an attorney general of her own choosing to fill out the rest of Brady's term.

From the uncertainty of the ballot box to the security of the bench, it had to be one of the greatest back flips in state political history.

The hidden ball trick

Diana McWilliams, a Democratic state representative, insisted she wanted a new two-year term when she was up for re-election in 2008. So did Becky Walker, another Democratic state representative, when her term was up in 2014.

Ha! McWilliams went so far as to win on Election Day. Then she bailed for a job in New Mexico. Walker waited for the candidates filing deadline to pass before she let on she was getting out.

The fake-outs did not go over well with the voters. They went to the polls and shifted both seats to the Republicans, although McWilliams' later went Democratic again and what happens with Walker's will not be known until 2016.

In politics as in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and a fast one pulled by a politician can be counted on to set off a slow burn by the voters.

Son of Bush v. Gore

La Mar Gunn thought he had been elected the Republican recorder of deeds in Kent County by two votes in 2014, until the courts got into the act and showed they could whipsaw with the best of them.

The vote was so close, it triggered an automatic recount before the Board of Canvass, consisting of a couple of Superior Court judges, and it found Gunn had not won by two votes, but Betty Lou McKenna, the sitting Democratic recorder of deeds, had been re-elected by two votes.

Gunn protested to the Superior Court, and a different judge there oversaw another recount. This time it came out a tie. What are the odds of that?

The tie did Gunn no good, though, because a tie goes to the governor to appoint someone, and Jack Markell, being a Democratic governor, appointed McKenna.

Gunn took his case to the Supreme Court, which threw out the tie on the grounds that one Superior Court judge should not be overruling two fellow judges, and it awarded the office to McKenna.

The election was for the Kent County recorder of deeds, so the case was not exactly the second coming of Bush v. Gore. Anyway, it was Gunn who was left hanging, not the chad.

It's her party, and she'll go where she wants to

Margaret Rose Henry was a Democrat before she was a Republican before she was a Democrat.

Henry was not in politics back in 1994, when a Democratic state senator died and there had to be a special election to replace him in a Wilmington district where the voters were overwhelmingly Democratic and African-American.

The election was looking fairly hopeless for the Republicans, who did not have much in the way of African-American candidates, until they got the bright idea to recruit Henry, who was an African-American Democrat herself, to run on their ticket, and she won.

Henry switched her registration to Republican, but she was uncomfortable with her new party. She waited around to see whether Colin Powell would run for president as a Republican in 1996, but as soon as he took himself out, so did she.

Henry went back to being a Democrat, rising to her current status as the state Senate's majority whip. She was in good company. None other than Winston Churchill switched parties twice.

"Anyone can rat," Churchill said, "but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat."