Posted: Feb. 12, 2013
THE DELAWARE REPUBLICANS ON LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY
By Celia Cohen
Now is not much of a time for the Delaware Republicans to be singing "glory, glory hallelujah."
They have tried out four state party chairs, three national committeemen and two national committeewomen over the past 10 years, but it has brought them no governors or senators, and the congressman they did have, they took out themselves in a primary to keep him out of the Senate.
Still, if the party is out of power, it is not out of bravado. Its Lincoln Day dinner was an unapologetic battle hymn of the Republicans.
How bracing it must have been to have Christine O'Donnell there and not Mike Castle.
There were about 200 party members at the event, hosted Saturday evening by the Kent County Republicans at Dover Downs, and John Sigler, the state chair who comes from Kent County himself, told them they had a lot to be proud of, and they thought so, too.
"What was our goal? Our goal was to stop the slide," Sigler said.
So what had they done in the 2012 election? They had picked up a seat in the state Senate. Cheers.
Never mind it just gave them eight out of 21 seats, instead of seven. Never mind they also lost a seat in the state House of Representatives. Never mind they lost all five of the statewide races.
The statewide candidates who had lost to the Democrats' all-incumbent ticket showed up and mingled to acclaim. Pardon the expression at a Lincoln Day dinner, but it was like they were Confederate generals hailed for their part in the Lost Cause.
They were Kevin Wade, who lost to Tom Carper for senator, and Tom Kovach, who lost to John Carney for congressman, and Jeff Cragg, who lost to Jack Markell for governor, and Sher Valenzuela, who lost to Matt Denn for lieutenant governor, and Ben Mobley, who lost to Karen Weldin Stewart for insurance commissioner.
It was Valenzuela who best embraced the upside of losing.
"It's a turnaround atmosphere. It's kind of exciting to have so many opportunities in front of us," Valenzuela said.
No wonder Sigler used the Lincoln Day dinner to announce he would run in the spring for a second two-year term as the state party chair, what with so many opportunities.
The Republicans will have to find statewide candidates in 2014 against four Democratic incumbents, namely Chris Coons for senator, John Carney for congressman, Beau Biden for attorney general and Chip Flowers for treasurer. Tom Wagner, the auditor who is the lone Republican in statewide office, is also up.
"This job isn't done, and I have never quit a job that isn't done," said Sigler, who is a lawyer, a retired Dover policeman and past president of the National Rifle Association. "I will run for re-election."
Throughout the Lincoln Day dinner, the Republicans tried every which way to make a virtue out of their down-and-out condition.
Sigler vowed they would question the Democrats in office and offer alternative policies, as he declared, "We're no longer the minority party, we're the opposition party."
The Republicans also gave the Kent County Elected Official of the Year Award to Dave Lawson, a state senator whose claim to fame is his charter membership in the "Row of No," the back seats where some Republicans sit and vote against a lot of the Democratic senators' agenda.
The message from the keynote speaker was more of the same. It was offered by Grover Norquist, the anti-tax leader who gets federal and state lawmakers to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and also a fellow NRA activist with Sigler.
"Gridlock means not doing anything particularly stupid or damaging," Norquist said. "Politicians or pundits who say they pine for the good old days of bipartisan compromise are telling you how old they are."
It sounded very un-Delaware in a state where consensus politics and the better angels of humankind's nature have long been the operating standard, but no matter.
It did sound like the Lincoln Day dinner's emerging theme, that the party of the Republicans, by the Republicans, for the Republicans shall not perish from Delaware.