Posted: Nov. 4, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator, was committed to running against Beau Biden as the Democrats' candidate for governor, but against John Carney? Eh, not as much.

It is probably too strong of a characterization to say Bonini has gotten cold feet, but definitely cool feet, maybe even chilled feet.

A poll conducted for Bonini in late September did nothing to make him warm to the race, either.

"I was planning on running against Beau Biden. It's not Beau, for the worst possible reason. John's a very popular guy, and by the way, a great guy," Bonini said.

Bonini declared his interest in the 2016 gubernatorial race just after the votes were counted in 2014, when he was re-elected to a Kent County seat in the state Senate and could campaign from the safe confines of a four-year term.

At that time, Biden's health was perilous, but the Democrats were still planning on him as their candidate, particularly after he took a pass on running for re-election as attorney general in 2014 to prepare for the gubernatorial campaign in 2016, when Jack Markell cannot run for a third term as the Democratic governor.

That was not to be. Once brain cancer took Biden in late May, it was a matter of waiting a decent season until Carney, the three-term congressman, stepped up.

Bonini's own poll has him trailing Carney by 46 percent to 25 percent with the rest undecided. It was but small consolation Carney was not showing an outright majority of more than 50 percent.

It has Bonini re-thinking his candidacy. If he got out, the Republicans would be left with Lacey Lafferty, a Tea Party candidate.

"No massive decisions yet, but we're going to get together in the next few weeks and evaluate," Bonini said.

Bonini did not really need a poll to tell him what he is up against. Not only did he get to know Carney when Carney was the lieutenant governor, presiding over the state Senate, but Bonini's own wife, who is a Democrat, sent Carney the maximum contribution of $1,200 for the Democratic gubernatorial primary he lost to Markell in 2008.

Even so, Bonini is fairly certain his wife would vote for him, not Carney. "I'm confident I've got at least two votes," he quipped.

Bonini can only hope. There is a reason voting booths come with curtains.

# # #

When a pardon finally came for Samuel D. Burris, a black freeman convicted in Delaware as a conductor for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, it was the righting of a great wrong.

It was dramatic. It was ceremonial. It was also immaculately constitutional.

There were protocols that were carefully observed before Burris was granted a posthumous pardon by Markell, who signed it on Monday in front of a crowd inside the Old State House in Dover.

Only the governor can give a pardon, but only after a recommendation from the Board of Pardons. It is set up that way in the state constitution.

The governor's office coordinated the appeal for the pardon with the help of Burris' descendants, and the application went to the board. It typically has five members -- the lieutenant governor, the chancellor from the Court of Chancery, the secretary of state, the treasurer and the auditor -- but currently lacks the lieutenant governor, since Matt Denn left the office in mid-term after he was elected as the Democratic attorney general.

The historic record showed Burris was arrested and convicted in 1847 and sentenced to 10 months in prison, fined $500 and ordered to be sold into slavery for 14 years.

"It went to the board. If no member of the board objects and the Attorney General's Office is in agreement, it's granted without further hearing. It was announced publicly," said Jeff Bullock, the secretary of state who chairs the Board of Pardons in the absence of a lieutenant governor.

"It is extraordinary. We are not in the business of granting pardons posthumously, but the view was, it was an extraordinary set of circumstances."

Burris has come down through the ages in an etching that shows him with a Lincoln-like stovepipe hat, beard and bow tie. Eerily enough, his pardoning ceremony took place in the same room where he was tried.

As part of the ceremony, a letter Burris wrote to his brother from prison was read by Ocea Thomas, a descendant. It was a poetic reckoning of his sorrow and his suffering, as it read in part:

"Looking forward with an anxious mind to the day in which the sale of my body will take place, you will recollect that the slave trader is doing a lawful business, encouraged and protected by the laws of the state of Delaware, yet I cannot forbear taking all opportunities to express great abhorrence of servitude and my passion for liberty upon any terms whatsoever."

When Burris was to be sold, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society secretly made plans to save him, as the state Historical & Cultural Affairs Division notes on its Web site. Isaac Flint, a Wilmington abolitionist, was sent to the auction to pose as a slave trader and place the winning bid. Not even Burris knew until afterwards.

Burris left Delaware and never returned again.