Posted: March 10, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Stroke? What stinkin' stroke? U.S. Rep. Mike Castle was not about to let it keep him off the volleyball court when the Republicans took on the Democrats in a grudge match.

If Castle could play six months after a stroke, then state Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf sure as heck could do the same for the Democrats three months after he donated a kidney to his neighbor.

The competition, held Saturday at the University of Delaware in Newark, was supposed to be a friendly charity event, the headliner for the Easter Seals' annual volleyball fund raiser to aid disabled children and adults, but the politicians clearly were not letting it go at that.

Democrats hate to lose to Republicans, and Republicans cannot bear to lose to Democrats. As state Rep. Helene Keeley, the Democratic minority whip, said, "This is not about having fun. This is about winning." She meant it, too.

The Republicans came away with the bragging rights, taking two out of three games, to avenge their loss to the Democrats last year when the squads met in an inaugural match.

The Democrats won a seesaw battle in the first game, but a very long point that went the Republicans' way in the second game swung the momentum and led to victory.

Democratic Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn, who is something of a presidential scholar, was not ready to concede, however. "We got fewer points, but I think we can win it in the Electoral College," he said.

State Rep. Greg Lavelle was the Republican captain and appropriately so, because he is the father of a 6-year-old son with special needs. His players, in addition to Castle, were: state Sen. Charlie Copeland, state Rep. Bob Valihura and Ferris Wharton, the ex-candidate for attorney general, along with a number of Republican staffers.

The Democratic players, captained by Lt. Gov. John Carney, were: U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Attorney General Beau Biden, state Reps. Val Longhurst and John Viola, Denn, Keeley, Schwartzkopf and some Democratic staffers.

The volleyball was rusty but not the trash talk. "The Republicans are the 199th seed out of the tournament of 200 teams, but we'd like to thank the Democrats, because they're the 200th seed," Castle said.

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The departure of state Rep. Wayne A. Smith, the Republican majority leader who is resigning to run a health care trade association, will be the biggest change when the General Assembly returns to Dover this week after a six-week break for budget hearings.

There is also a noteworthy switch at the staff level, though. William G. Bush IV, a House Democratic attorney, is leaving the legislature to become the counsel to Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Legislative attorneys typically work in obscurity, known by little more than their initials on the bills they draft, but Bill Bush teamed up with Battle R. Robinson, a House Republican attorney who is a retired Family Court judge, to write the most highly publicized document of the session -- the comprehensive investigative report on state Rep. John C. Atkins, R-Probation.

It is not the first time that the House Democrats have lost a lawyer in mid-session to the governor's reach. Two years ago Minner plucked away Alan G. Davis to be the chief magistrate in charge of the Justice of the Peace Courts.

House Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan does not mind. "My House attorneys are doing very well. I groom them and lose them," he quipped.