Posted: Dec. 20, 2006


Nothing in Delaware rose to the lofty standard of U.S. Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican, who lost his election after calling a Democratic campaign worker "macaca," but there were still plenty of Stupid Political Tricks here in 2006.

DING DONG DUMBELL. Delaware State University put itself on academic probation. It went looking for legislative clout by larding its administrative ranks with Joint Finance Committee members -- Republican Reps. Dick Cathcart, the incoming co-chair, and Nancy Wagner -- but mostly succeeded in raising public scrutiny, not only on itself, but the legislators. This is not just shooting yourself in the foot. This is painting a target on it so you don't miss.

HONEY, I SHRUNK MY GOVERNORSHIP. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner winged her way to the Caribbean as part of a National Guard program in September and forgot to vote by absentee ballot in the Democratic primary before she left. It was out of character for someone who seems to be doing so much of her second term by absentee.

FIRST TIME TRAGEDY, SECOND TIME FARCE. State Rep. Joe Booth tried to take out Speaker Terry Spence to become the boss Republican of the House himself, but he failed miserably. As Booths go, John Wilkes he ain't.

DOUBLE TROUBLE. The primary election was rife with "fusion" candidates -- people running on both major party and minor party tickets, like Democrat-Independent congressional candidate Karen Hartley-Nagle. Surprise, surprise, not one double-filer survived to make it onto a major-party ballot. Primary voters are loyal party people, wanting candidates who stay the course, not cut and run. Duh.

TRANSPLANT OPERATION. Republican John Feroce, who used to be a Rhode Island state senator, and Democrat Richard Korn, who couldn't get elected in New York, looked too much like candidates in search of a state and lost legislative races. They should have paid attention to Tom Koch, a California Democrat who bought himself an expensive Olde New Castle manse to set himself up against Republican Sen. Dori Connor in a very Democratic district. Koch quickly realized it was hopeless, packed his carpet bag and was never heard from again.

WOULD YOU LIKE KETCHUP WITH THOSE WORDS? In the race for attorney general, Republican Ferris Wharton promised to hire only "qualified attorneys, not political cronies" and wondered sarcastically whether Democrat Beau Biden "would even know what the right people looked like." Two hires later, Biden has Rich Gebelein, the globe-trotting judge, and Rich Andrews, the ace federal prosecutor, on board. It's an embarrassment, all right -- an embarrassment of Riches.

HOLD THAT TIGER. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden tripped himself up in the confirmation hearing for Sam Alito with a foaming digression against Princeton, the Supreme Court justice's alma mater, so much so that he donned a Princeton baseball cap to make amends. Maybe it was leftover resentment that Biden, a Democratic kid from Claymont, trudged off to the University of Delaware and Syracuse law while Pete du Pont, the Republican governor who was an early rival, sauntered off to Princeton and Harvard law. It's a common affliction in Delaware politics -- du Pont envy.

ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT POLITICAL FIRES. State Rep. John Atkins' fight with his wife is morphing into a political monster because the Millsboro Republican didn't come clean from the start. When will politicians ever learn? It's not the crime, it's the cover-up.