Posted: Nov. 13, 2015
A CANDIDATE FOR ALL PARTIES
By Celia Cohen
Kathy McGuiness, one of the candidates for lieutenant governor, looks like she has taken the concept of "voter registration rolls" a little too literally.
She keeps rolling her voter registration to a different party.
For now, McGuiness is a Democrat, but it does not exactly come with the ringing resolve of Democrat today, Democrat tomorrow, Democrat forever.
Since McGuiness first registered to vote in Delaware in 1995, state election records show she has gone from Republican to Democrat to Republican to missing from the rolls -- she did not vote here in 2012 -- to the minor Independent Party of Delaware to Democrat.
It was extraneous to McGuiness' civic life as a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, dating back to 2000, because the city elections are nonpartisan, but it is different in a party primary where six candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2016.
It can be perilous to switch parties under those circumstances.
"In a party primary, one of the criteria that party people look for is if that person is a party loyalist. The fact that she changed her party registration is something that party people will care about, although I don't think the average voter will," said Mitch Crane, the Democratic chair in McGuiness' home base of Sussex County.
The other Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor are Sherry Dorsey Walker, Brad Eaby, Greg Fuller, Bethany Hall-Long and Ciro Poppiti III. The Republicans do not have anyone yet.
McGuiness did not have much to say about her scattershot registration.
"It is what it is," McGuiness said. "I have grown up with different perspectives. I always try to see both sides and listen and not try to close my eyes or plug my ears. The Democratic Party is the proper party for me. I have always been a supporter of Democratic values."
McGuiness, a pharmacist and business owner, describes herself as pro-choice, supportive of increasing the minimum wage, against the death penalty and a friend of the gay community. She was the treasurer for the early campaigns of Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic speaker who has represented the Rehoboth Beach area since 2002, and has continued to help him.
Maybe there is just something in the air in Rehoboth Beach, where the politics are so live-and-let-live that not only are the elections nonpartisan, but the voters do not even have to be residents, just property owners. As a matter of fact, McGuiness herself is a non-resident commissioner living outside the city limits in Henlopen Acres.
From Schwartzkopf's perspective, the cause of all of McGuiness' party switching is absolutely Rehoboth Beach.
While there was not much of an explanation from McGuiness, there was one on her behalf from Schwartzkopf, who is backing her for lieutenant governor. It seems it was sort of like a dare.
McGuiness was involved in a conversation, wondering whether party affiliation mattered in city elections. She argued it did not and proposed she could get elected no matter what her registration was, and so she did.
"She switched to prove a point," said Schwartzkopf.
"I knew it when it happened. Kathy's been with me in every campaign I've run since 2002. She's been a Democrat. She's socially liberal. I look at it that she's confident in her abilities and her support."
In addition, Schwartzkopf said McGuiness was temporarily not registered to vote in Delaware while her family was spending a lot of time at a vacation home in Utah.
Still, even Schwartzkopf could not explain McGuiness' fling with the Independent Party of Delaware.
IPoD, as it is called, has been a landing place for sour-grapes candidates like Alex Pires, who goaded Tom Carper, the Democratic senator, so much about his health in 2012 that Carper did 30 pushups on a table at a Democratic dinner, and for certain Tea Party conservatives in Sussex County on the outs with the Republican Party.
McGuiness rolled around her party registration. Now the Democratic voters have to decide if they want to roll with her.