Posted: Oct. 14, 2016
By Celia Cohen
John Carney sounded kind of envious.
Here he was, the Democratic congressman who is the undisputed front-runner for governor, standing in a jam-packed house, except the throng was not precisely there for him, but for Bethany Hall-Long, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, the post that got him started statewide when he was elected in 2000 with Ruth Ann Minner as the Democratic governor.
It was Hall-Long's reception, Hall-Long's fund-raiser. Carney was her guest speaker.
"We never had an event like this when I was with Ruth Ann!" Carney quipped.
It got him a big laugh. They are in the early days of campaigning jointly, Carney with Hall-Long, since she won the six-candidate primary for lieutenant governor last month, and they are clearly enjoying their building partnership.
"We haven't had a chance to do many things together. When you're on a ticket together, governor and lieutenant governor, there's something about chemistry that's important, and I got to tell you, we've got some chemistry going, we've got some mojo going," Carney said.
The event on Thursday evening crammed more than a hundred people into the 91-year-old restored Brandywine Springs home of Lisa Goodman, a lawyer who is the Democratic Party's vice chair, and Drew Fennell, the chief of staff for Jack Markell, the outgoing Democratic governor.
Hall-Long was having a good day. In a nod from her fellow state senators, she had presided earlier at a special session -- someone had to do it, because there has been no lieutenant governor since Matt Denn was elected mid-term as the Democratic attorney general -- and then this.
As competitive and sometimes cutthroat as politicians can be toward one another, there is also a certain joy when one of their own rises. At least here in Delaware it works that way.
It was no accident Patti Blevins, the state Senate's Democratic president pro tem, attended the reception for Hall-Long to salute her. The same goes for Bob Gilligan, the ex-speaker who led the Democratic caucus when Hall-Long was a state representative.
Lisa Blunt Rochester, the Democratic candidate running to take over the state's lone congressional seat from Carney, also stopped by. Carney noticed.
"This is some kind of ticket. Everywhere I go, I get completely upstaged by this ticket," he cracked.
The ticket has not been elected to anything yet, but the crowd was not doubting it would be. Delaware is a seriously Democratic state, the Republican candidates have not much more than pocket change in their campaign accounts, and the polling is going the Democrats' way.
Carney was up 32 points over Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator running for governor, in a recent poll from the University of Delaware, and Rochester led by 22 points over Hans Reigle, the Republican candidate in the congressional race. Lieutenant governor was not polled, but the state has not voted in a governor and lieutenant governor of different parties since 1984.
The confidence was so high, the intrigue was already thick at Hall-Long's fund-raiser over who could run in a special election to replace her in the state Senate, since she is midway through a four-year term. Two possibilities -- Earl Jaques, a Democratic state representative, and Ken Boulden, the Democratic clerk of the peace in New Castle County -- conspicuously attended.
Hall-Long is a far cry from her last race in 2014, when she eked out re-election amid an uproar set off by her husband, after he was caught taking Republican political signs in the dark of night.
Probably nothing else pointed to Hall-Long's new status like her reverse-request to people to please not leave the event without taking her yard signs to put up. Without a trace of irony, they did.