Posted: Nov. 2, 2010 


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The voters were riled up. It took the election here to find out where they were ready to go, whether their ire came from anger over Obama or embarrassment over O'Donnell.

Stirred-up voters are unpredictable voters, so both the Democrats and the Republicans in Delaware were hyperventilating over their prospects Tuesday.

Embarrassment over Christine O'Donnell and her Tea Party Republican politics prevailed. Easily.

In this blue state, where there are 110,000 more Democrats than Republicans registered to vote, the built-in firewall for the Democrats stopped the losses that historically come to the president's party in mid-term elections.

Never mind it was a nationwide campaign season throbbing with anti-government, anti-tax and anti-incumbent intensity. This is the home of the Democratic vice president.

Delaware did what it typically does. It reasserted itself as a cradle of moderate politics, decidedly casting off the aberration of the Republican primary that saw Mike Castle, so familiar and well-worn, fall to Christine O'Donnell and trigger the goofiest candidacy this state has ever seen.

It looked like Delaware became one place voters wanted to punish Republicans.

Chris Coons and John Carney, the tandem at the top of the Democratic ticket, delivered everything their party wanted, the vindication of keeping the Senate seat that once was Joe Biden's and the bragging rights of flipping the congressional seat given up by Castle.

The Democrats celebrated at their Election Night headquarters in Wilmington.

"It's a great night. Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it. We sent a great message to the United States of America," Ted Kaufman, the Democrat appointed to fill the Senate interregnum from Biden to Coons, told the crowd.

"The Tea Party doesn't fly in Delaware. They should take their Express and drive right on through," chimed in Beau Biden, the vice president's son re-elected as attorney general.

The Delaware Republicans ended the 2010 election all but wiped out.

They were undone not only by the Democratic registration but by their internal splintering between the Castle moderates and the Tea Party conservatives.

The Republicans are down to a single minor holding among the nine statewide offices, barely re-electing Tom Wagner as auditor, and entirely shut out of the upper political reaches of the governor, the congressional delegation, the attorney general and the lieutenant governor.

The attorney general's race with Biden running without a Republican opponent said it all.

The Republicans could not even take advantage of this unsettling campaign season to break out of the minority in the General Assembly. They did not have a chance in the Senate, where they were down 15-6, but there were enough seats in play in the House of Representatives to give them a shot at overturning the Democrats' 24-17 majority and they went for it.

Despite the mood in the country, the voters here largely stuck with the incumbent legislators, although the one lawmaker who virtually symbolized Legislative Hall was ousted.

Nancy Cook, the Democratic state senator who co-chaired the Joint Finance Committee, lost the Kent County seat she held since 1974. It put the Senate Democrats' new majority at 14-7.

The Democrats bucked the mid-term trend by netting two House seats to go up 26-15. They knocked out Tom Kovach, a Brandywine Hundred Republican, and picked up the seats of Bill Oberle and Richard Cathcart, two Republicans who retired, although they did lose the seat of Bob Walls, a Kent County Democrat.

"Hard work pays off. Negative campaigning doesn't," said Bob Gilligan, the Democratic speaker.

The cracks in the Republican Party were evident even before the votes were counted. It was not a good sign that O'Donnell set up her Election Night headquarters downstate in Dover, separate from the party's official location upstate in Newark.

Incredibly this cyclone of a campaign season is not over . . . not until there is a special election to replace Paul Clark, the Democrat moving up from New Castle County Council president to take over as county executive from Coons.

The price of democracy is not only eternal vigilance, but apparently also endless voting.