Posted: Nov. 2, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

"Political Notebook" is a collection of noteworthy political items around Delaware. This one looks at Mitt Romney's endorsements in the Republican presidential primary here and also remembers a good Democrat.

Mitt Romney's campaign put out a list of the Delaware Republicans backing him for president.

The name of Mike Castle was not there.

Castle, the former governor and congressman who is still one of the state's leading Republicans, describes himself as "leaning" towards Romney, more and more so as time goes by. What has him hesitating, however, is a certain ingrained Delaware political trait.

"I don't really know him personally," Castle said.

In a state so small, Delawareans do like to know the people they are voting for. Even so, other Republicans have gone ahead and endorsed, anyway. This is for the presidency, after all, and Delaware is not New Hampshire. The candidates are just not going to be as available as a state senator meeting for coffee with constituents in a local bagel shop.

Greg Lavelle, the House minority leader who is also the party's vice chair, is the unofficial chief organizer for Romney. More than 20 others have signed on so far, including: Laird Stabler, the national committeeman; Liane Sorenson, the Senate minority whip; and Dale Wolf, who was Castle's lieutenant governor and fleetingly the governor after Castle was elected to the Congress.

The presidential primary comes late in the 2012 nominating calendar. The state votes Tuesday, April 24, in something of a mid-Atlantic regional primary along with Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

There has been no pattern to Castle's presidential endorsements. He came out early in the 2008 election cycle for John McCain, whom he knew well, but he made no endorsement at all in Delaware's infamous primary of 1996.

That primary was Delaware's first, replacing Iowa-style caucuses, and the state decided to reach for a little front-end glory by scheduling it four days after New Hampshire, only to have New Hampshire react with fury.

New Hampshire law requires its primary to come a week before any other state's, and it warned the candidates to stay out of Delaware, or else. President Bill Clinton did on the Democratic side, and so did Bob Dole, the eventual Republican nominee, and almost all of the other Republicans.

It made endorsements hard to cajole out of the jilted Delaware Republicans, that is, until Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary and taunted the party establishment like some forerunner of the Tea Party.

"They hear the shouts of the peasants from over the hill. All the knights and barons will be riding into the castle pulling up the drawbridge in a minute. All the peasants are coming with their pitchforks," Buchanan cackled.

The proper Republican state leadership wanted no parts of pitchforks. In the four days between the two primaries, it gushed endorsements for Dole.

Castle held off. Although he conceded afterwards he did vote for Dole in the privacy of the polling place, he was publicly delighted when the winner was Steve Forbes, the magazine publisher who defied New Hampshire to campaign in Delaware.

"If you are going to run in Delaware, it is an absolute fact you'd better be here," Castle said then.

In Delaware, familiarity breeds contentment.

# # #

Wayne Pollari was laid to rest Wednesday, another member of the World War II generation passing into history.

Pollari did what so many other veterans did. After their sacrifice to make the world a better place, they came back dedicated to doing the same at home. They were an uncommon blend of youthful drive and practical seasoning, a powerful force for a new day.

Pollari became a teacher and a coach and immersed himself in politics.

By the time he was 23, he decided to run as a Democrat for state representative. It was 1948, and he was both a decorated war veteran from the Pacific theatre and a student at the University of Delaware. He was also too young. The minimum age to be on the ballot was 24. His sister replaced him but came up 65 votes short.

Pollari was a Democratic committeeman from 1948 until the day he died at 86.

"To my knowledge, he was the longest continuous-serving committeeperson we ever had," said John Daniello, the Democratic state chair who was his friend.

Daniello credited Pollari with getting him involved in the party in 1958. He said Pollari came early to the fight for public accommodations and open housing, civil rights measures to end discrimination, and was always willing to put his name on the ballot against a Republican in Brandywine Hundred, back in the days when it was a Republican stronghold and a Democrat had no chance.

Pollari was set to be given an award next week at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the Delaware Democrats' biggest event of the year. Daniello said it will be presented posthumously.

The World War II generation showed what could be done when the country pulled together. It is a lesson that could do with some remembering.