Posted: Dec. 9, 2013
DOWN ON THE BALLOT
By Celia Cohen
In the age of the perpetual campaign, Delaware looks like the place that politics forgot.
Across the land, there are races already being run in full cry, especially in the South, where a dwindling number of Democratic senators are fighting for political life against an ever-rising Republican red tide.
The president is asked, not even about the next election but the one after that, Hillary or Joe?
But here? So far it is nothing but a free ride at the top of the ballot for Chris Coons, John Carney and Beau Biden on the Democrats' 2014 statewide ticket, not a Republican opponent or a primary challenger in sight.
This, even though Coons came in as something of an accidental senator four years ago, after Joe Biden and Ted Kaufman gave up the seat, the Republican tea party dumped Mike Castle, and all that was left between Coons and Capitol Hill was Christine O'Donnell, making like Dorothy in Oz by protesting she was not a witch.
This, even though Carney, now in his second term as a congressman, had a tepid favorable rating of 47 percent in a recent poll taken for the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware. For crying out loud, Chris Christie was at 56 percent, never mind how Democratic this state is or what Delaware thinks of New Jersey.
This, even though Biden's condition remains mysterious, and the word from Sussex County is that people there are calling the state Justice Department the "Kremlin" as they suggest snidely the attorney general has a "Russian cold."
To detect any political stirrings, it takes going farther down on the ballot, where there actually are some signs of life in the election, now less than a year away.
In the auditor's race, the Democrats got a candidate over the weekend when Brenda Mayrack, a lawyer who was once the state party's executive director, announced she would run against Tom Wagner, a six-term Republican.
In the treasurer's race, the campaign could be close to going volcanic. The Democrats are engaged in some serious back-and-forth about a primary opponent for Chip Flowers, who is having a very stormy first term, while on the Republican side, Ken Simpler Jr., a financial professional, is being mentioned as a possible candidate.
Even farther down the ballot, it got downright mischievous.
On the eve of Delaware Day, inside the Deer Park tavern, that fine old Delaware institution in Newark, a couple of New Castle County councilwomen held a joint fund-raiser, a low-key and low-dollar event at $25 a ticket.
It was one of those things that seems to happen only in Delaware, because the councilwomen were Lisa Diller, a Democrat, and Janet Kilpatrick, a Republican, and people could not remember ever hearing of another joint fund-raiser that crossed party lines.
Diller and Kilpatrick happen to be the only women on the County Council, and they called their event "Stop the War on Women (W.O.W.) Fund-raiser," because they do not think they are getting the respect they deserve as council members from Tom Gordon, the Democratic county executive.
They might have planned the event in frustration, but it was neither strident nor shrill. Laughter prevailed, and as part of the ribbing, they even brought in Nancy Schanes, the 84-year-old volunteer whom the Gordon administration ran out of the Friends of Rockwood.
"We just decided to have fun with it," Diller said.
"You get more when you play well with others," Fitzpatrick said.
As odd as the event was, the parties did not seem to mind it, even though both Diller and Kilpatrick are up for election next year. The crowd of about 50 people included Jim Hussey, the Democratic state vice-chair, and Dave Gilefski, the Republicans' Western New Castle Region chair.
Paul Clark, the deposed Democratic county executive, was there, looking as though he wanted to tell everyone the "war on women" is nothing compared to the war Gordon waged on him.
Legislators from the area also showed up. There were John Kowalko and Ed Osienski, both of them Democratic representatives, and Mike Ramone, a Republican representative. Vince Lofink, a Republican ex-representative who is married to Kilpatrick, naturally attended, and so did Bill Oberle, another Republican ex-representative.
"With three sisters and three daughters, I had to step up," Oberle quipped, adding he also regarded Gordon as a good friend.
There were even some wistful comments about how nice it would have been if Gordon himself had stopped by. People were really hoping he would.
More proof that here if not elsewhere, Delaware politics for now is still decidedly non-combatant.