Posted: Dec. 3, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

As campaign finance reports for special elections go, their authenticity is better than e-mail offering to split a $10 million windfall with a Nigerian official, but not by much.

The reports are compiled eight days before the voting, and a great deal of the money never seems to arrive until afterwards -- wink, wink -- so a lot of the contributors and the costs are hidden until the next set of reports are due at the end of the year, when it hardly matters anymore.

It is a twist on the old disappearing act, now you don't see it, now you do.

The reports are in now for the special election Saturday between Democrat Bill Carson and Republican Christine Malec for a Kent County seat in the state House of Representatives. The winner will take over from Bruce Ennis, a Democrat who won a special election a month ago to replace Jim Vaughn Sr., the late Democratic state senator.

As cryptic as the reports can be, they do provide some clues to the state of political affairs. These scream, "Special election fatigue."

The giving has given out. This race is the fourth legislative special election this year, three for the House and one for the Senate, and it shows.

For the Republicans, the situation is downright dire. Malec reported $10,000 in contributions. Ten thousand dollars! The Republicans collected that much from four patrons last month at Vicmead, the party's premier fund-raiser.

The Democrats brought in $24,000 for Carson -- better than the Republican take for Malec but still modest by special election standards for House seats.

The money reported in the pre-election filings has dropped off, race by race. The Republicans raised $68,000 for Jim Bowers in a losing effort in April for a Brandywine Hundred seat and $34,000 for state Rep. Greg Hastings in May in Sussex County. The Democrats pulled in $44,000 for state Rep. Bryon Short in the Brandywine Hundred contest and $38,000 for Lynn Bullock in Sussex.

Malec's dreary financing looks like a reflection of the Republican outlook on the election, which has not been promising since the party watched Bruce Ennis roll up better than 80 percent or 90 percent of the vote in parts of his old House district as he won 2-1 overall.

"It's like the Senate race. It's an uphill battle, but we're not staying home. It wasn't a campaign that we established a real high budget for, because you can only go to the well so many times, and we've been to the well a lot this year," said state Rep. Dick Cathcart, the Republican majority leader. "The money hopefully will come in."

It was an Italian diplomat who said, "Victory finds a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan." The money makes Malec's campaign appear beyond orphaned, more like labeled "missing" on a milk carton with no one even out searching.

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Not that the Democrats and the Republicans can kick back after the special election.

It is two months until Delaware's presidential primary on Feb. 5. The candidates' filing deadline to get on the ballot is next Monday.

Candidates automatically are placed on the ballot if the Federal Election Commission certifies they are eligible for federal matching funds, whether or not they accept the funds and the spending restrictions that accompany them, or they can claim ballot status by collecting 500 voters' signatures, according to state Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove.

So far, Democrats John Edwards and Chris Dodd and Republicans John McCain and Tom Tancredo are eligible for matching funds, accomplished by collecting at least $100,000, part of which has to be $5,000 from 20 different states in individual contributions no greater than $250.

Democrat Barack Obama has turned in 500 verified signatures. Election officials are checking signatures for Republican Ron Paul and are expecting signatures shortly for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mitt Romney.

Campaign officials for Republican Rudy Giuliani said they have submitted signatures.

Hmmmmm. Someone seems to be missing.

"We don't have Joe yet," Manlove said.