Posted: March 16, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Richard H. Bayard surprised his fellow Democrats by announcing Wednesday he will not run again for state chairman when the party meets this spring to elect its leadership.

Bayard's departure, coming after two terms, opens up the office for the first time since 1997 and leaves the party unexpectedly searching for someone new to assume its top post.

"This is such a shock," said state Sen. Patricia M. Blevins, the party's treasurer.

As recently as late last year, Bayard told the Democrats' executive committee, which runs the party, that he planned to stay for another term.

In a written statement, Bayard said he had enough after eight years as chairman, particularly because it followed eight years he spent representing the state party on the Democratic National Committee.

"I have given so much of my time and energy to the party for so long, that not being further involved as a statewide party official seems hard to grasp after 16 years," Bayard said. "But 16 years is a long time in party office, and it's time for someone else to step forward."

Delaware Democrats will elect new officers May 14 at their state convention in Dover, filling four-year terms for the top three posts of chair, national committeeman and committeewoman, as well as other offices.

Although the party has yet to focus in earnest on candidates for chair, some of the names being mentioned are Gary E. Hindes, a former chairman who preceded Bayard, and Blevins, although she said the timing is not right for her while she holds elected office.

The next chair will take over a healthy party, which holds six of the nine statewide offices including governor and the two U.S. Senate seats, but also inherits the ticklish question of what to do about the next governor's race in 2008. The Democrats have two potential candidates with Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and state Treasurer Jack A. Markell and no obvious avenue for sorting it out.

Bayard departs the same way he entered. Hindes decided not to run for re-election, leaving the party casting about for a replacement. After some weeks Bayard, then the national committeeman, agreed to take over at the request of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a longtime friend who was the lieutenant governor at the time and planning to run for governor in 2000.

"I was glad to have him as state chair during my campaigns for governor," Minner said. "He has served the party well and done a lot to bring our party many of the successes of recent years. We all owe Rick a debt of gratitude for his long service."

U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. also praised Bayard. "The job of a party chairman is never easy. In fact, it's thankless, but Rick has served the party well, and the fruits of his labors are obvious," he said. "Rick leaves the Democratic Party well-positioned to continue that upswing into the next election cycle, and for that he has the thanks of grateful Democrats across our state."

Bayard comes from a family with a long and storied Democratic past. Five Bayards have served in the U.S. Senate. Bayard's father, Alexis I. du Pont "Lex" Bayard, was a lieutenant governor and party chairman, and the state Democrats named their most prestigious award after him.

Bayard may go, but the name remains.