Posted: Feb. 2, 2012
By Celia Cohen
One by one, the word from the candidates trickled in.
Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, is sitting on a cool $1.4 million for his campaign. Tom Carper, the Democratic senator, shot past $2 million in his account. Tom Kovach, the Republican congressional candidate who is just getting started, managed $47,300. And so on.
Mum was the word, however, from Ben Mobley, the Republican running for insurance commissioner. Although the reports on the candidates' finances for 2011 were due in January, he did not file one.
Politics has a technical term for this. Oops, as Rick Perry would say.
It was a rookie mistake. Mobley, a 35-year-old investment adviser from Middletown, got way ahead of himself and has yet to catch up.
He was so intent on getting started, he handed out fliers at the Republicans' Delaware Day dinner on Dec. 7. Fliers cost money. Whenever people get that serious about running for state office, they have to set up an organization and notify election officials.
"Within seven days of spending or receiving funds, he needs to file with us," said Paul Baldwin, the campaign finance supervisor.
Mobley finally got around to filing on Wednesday. His campaign finance report is still to come.
It is not exactly a capital offense, but it is an unforced error, and the Republicans are at enough of a disadvantage as the 2012 campaign season begins without adding to their troubles.
The Democrats have incumbents running for every statewide office, although there is a primary for insurance commissioner. Collectively the Democratic candidates have banked more than $4 million, some a lot and some not so much, but a political slate is like the old song, the-foot-bone's-connected-to-the-ankle-bone/the-ankle-bone's-connected-to-the-shin-bone, where everyone's spending matters to everyone else.
The Republicans? A mind-blowing hundredfold less than the Democrats. Only Kovach put any money away. Mobley has not said. The rest of the statewide candidates expected to form the Republican ticket -- Kevin Wade for senator, Jeff Cragg for governor and Sher Valenzuela for lieutenant governor -- did not declare for office in time to have to report their campaign finances.
Mobley does not have much catching-up to do in the insurance commissioner's race.
Karen Weldin Stewart, a first-term Democrat, has $17,000, excluding a carryover loan of $10,400. Mitch Crane, a Democrat who used to work in the Insurance Department, has $54,000, including $20,000 he loaned himself. There are legislative candidates with more.
It is not uncommon for politicians to blame staff for mistakes, but in Mobley's case he did not have to. Staff blamed himself.
"It was clearly inadvertent. I've just never done this initial paperwork startup. When you start out, it's just a whirlwind," said Dave Jones, the campaign manager who is a Republican political operative from way back.
"What I'm discovering is I need to be an attorney to deal with this paperwork. I'm not an attorney. I'm a teacher."
The teacher gets marked tardy. The candidate gets an incomplete.