Posted: Feb. 26, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Political lapel stickers that tease are as much a part of Return Day, the very Delawarean post-election celebration of reconciliation, as the horse-drawn carriages with the winners and losers riding around The Circle in Georgetown.

Maybe the cleverest one of all popped up last year.

It was a playful corruption of the name of Alex Pires, the lawyer and Dewey Beach nightspot owner, who spent $380,000 of his own money to run against Tom Carper, the Democratic senator.

The campaign got ugly. Not only did Pires call Carper corrupt, but Pires also insisted Carper was hiding serious health problems and lying about his military record as a Navy flight officer during the Vietnam War.

The voters came to Carper's defense. They re-elected him with a satisfying 66 percent of the vote. Pires polled a meagerly forgettable 4 percent and has not been heard from since.

Return Day was rampant with stickers that looked a lot like miniatures of the blue billboards up and down the state for Pires. Except instead of reading "ALEX PIRES," they read "AL EXPIRES."

Part of the fun of Return Day is the paternity of the political stickers is almost always disavowed, so nobody was saying where the "AL EXPIRES" stickers came from. Carper's campaign staffers just smiled and shrugged.

Some of the mystery was just revealed by Carper himself.

As he told the tale last Thursday during an interview when the subject of the campaign came up, he was in his car one day during the election season and saw one of the "ALEX PIRES" billboards in the distance. A utility pole happened to be in his line of vision and split it into "AL EXPIRES."

It  was Carper! Carper himself came up with the name that shall live in epiphany.

There is a kicker, though. Although Carper thought it up and relished telling people the story, to this day his campaign does not know who heard about it and turned it into the sticker for Return Day.

The mystery continues.

# # #

Jack Markell was toting some bragging rights when he went to Washington over the weekend as the chair of the National Governors Association for its winter meeting.

Even so, his status did not exactly carry the mojo to break through against the likes of Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Bobby Jindal and Martin O'Malley. What was a Democratic governor from little Delaware, even one just re-elected with 69 percent of the vote, to do?

Ping pong, the governor's signature game, was not the answer. Markell turned to another favorite pastime, writing poems.

To call it "poetry" would probably be too much of a stretch. Markell is no Shakespeare. He comes up a couple beats short of iambic pentameter.

As the governors' chair, Markell got to give a toast at a black-tie dinner hosted Sunday at the White House by the president and the first lady, so he made his remarks in the form of a poem he wrote.

His best lines involved rhyming "fester" with "sequester" and "trainer" with "Boehner," as the reaction on a White House video showed.

Markell also earned himself a shout-out the next day from Joe Biden, when the vice president addressed the governors. "I didn't know Jack was as good as he is until I heard that rhyme last night," Biden quipped.

Here is some of the poem in all of its iambic trimeter aspirations:

On behalf of my fellow governors

To the President and Mrs. Obama

I offer you this toast

I hope with humor and little drama


To the two of you and the Bidens

Who hail from my home state

We appreciate your hospitality

We all look forward to this date


On this one night it's a relief

Politics doesn't drive the conversation

We don't speak of partisan issues

Or presidential aspirations


Instead we gather to reflect

On the blessings we've received

To serve our states and country

The best that's ever been conceived . . .


One thing, for sure, is certain

You don't let issues fester

You get to deal with education and health care

And even the sequester


You're probably jealous of the First Lady

She's Jimmy Fallon's trainer

While you on the other hand

Deal with Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner . . .


To the President and First Lady

And to the Bidens, here's our toast

We may come from the mountain states

Or from the south or plains or coast


We're one country and one people

In important ways we are united

For the chance to offer you our greatest thanks

I really am delighted

Tennyson, it is not, but still a well-versed governor.