Posted: Nov. 8, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Republicans have one statewide officeholder. It is Tom Wagner, the state auditor, and all they let him do last month at the "Salute to Vicmead," their premier event of the year, was lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The political program at Vicmead never lasts more than about half an hour. The evening is as airy as a salon.

The Delaware Democrats have eight statewide officeholders, along with a stop-by-and-see-them-sometime vice president, and how ever many of them show up, they all want a piece of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, their party's main event of the year.

It can turn the dinner, which was Monday night at the Plumbers & Pipefitters hall in Glasgow, into something as plodding as, well, as plodding as political speeches coming between 500 people and the Philadelphia Eagles game on Monday Night Football, which is exactly what it was.

The date was supposed to be noteworthy -- the start of the year leading up to Election Day 2012 on Nov. 6 -- and it was noteworthy all right, but not for what it was supposed to be.

"We should have paid more attention to a lot of schedules, all your schedules, but also the football schedule," said John Daniello, the state chair, to a roomful of rueful laughter.

"I am making a plea to every speaker who comes up to this podium. We should be able to see most of the Eagles game with your cooperation. All speakers take note."

Obviously Joe Biden was not present. Nobody here tells him to take note.

Jack Markell, the governor who gave the keynote speech, got plaudits for speaking five minutes shorter than expected, only to have Tom Carper, the senior senator, take possession of the time for himself. Questionable call. Markell's play went for no gain.

Not all the activity was inside the hall. Some of the Occupy Delaware people demonstrated outside. What a twist for them. They must have been the "1 %" who did not care about football.

The most politically charged moment of the evening was something that should have been innocuous. It was the award for an outstanding Democrat from Sussex County, and it went to Mitch Crane, the president of the state Stonewall Democrats, an organization for gay party members.

Crane is running in a primary against Karen Weldin Stewart, the insurance commissioner who is having a shaky first term. It was probably not so good for her when most of the room gave Crane a standing ovation.

The Democrats might as well squabble among themselves, because there are precious few Republicans willing to do it.

For the leading races in 2012, the Republicans have Tom Kovach, the New Castle County Council president, to run against John Carney for congressman, but only uncertainty against the rest of the Democrats' all-incumbent ticket of Tom Carper for senator, Jack Markell for governor and Matt Denn for lieutenant governor.

"The Republican Party hasn't been able to find an opponent for our governor longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage," Denn wisecracked.

The theme of the evening was proclaimed to be "jobs," but the real theme turned out to be the contrast between the way things are done in Delaware and in Washington, D.C.

There was a quite a difference listening to Markell, finishing up his third year as governor, as opposed to Chris Coons, the junior senator, and Carney, both in their first year on Capitol Hill.

Markell sounded like the happiest man in the room. He has not had an easy time of it, searching for new tenants at the General Motors plant in Newport, the Chrysler plant in Newark and the oil refinery in Delaware City, and balancing the budget, but he made it happen.

"Delaware does not give up. . . . In Delaware, we work together. When? When it's difficult," he said.

"If you've come to realize that simply saying 'no' does not put people back to work, it doesn't balance the budget, it doesn't reopen shuttered plants, it doesn't attract new businesses, if you've come to realize that repeating the phrase 'take our country back' is not actually a solution to our problems, then come join us, because this party -- our party -- is about coming together. . . .

"As governor, I love this state more than I ever have."

Coons and Carney, each with considerable experience in office at home, had a look of culture shock. They are not showing symptoms of Potomac fever. More like Potomac flu.

"John and I have taken turns saying this. Every day in Delaware is better than any day in Washington," Coons said.

"My first week as a senator, I went to new senators school, and the fun thing about new senators school was my classmates, because my classmates were something else. Between Rand Paul and Marco Rubio . . . I kept calling [my wife] Annie and saying, in six other states, they elected Christine O'Donnell."

Coons got an amen from Carney. "I guess I had to go to Washington, D.C., to appreciate how special this place really is," Carney said.

Daniello hustled everything to a close in under two hours, not bad, getting people out the door with the first quarter still going on. For what it was worth, he had a better night than the Eagles. They lost.