Posted: March 4, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Delaware Republicans settled Saturday on a candidate for the special election in Brandywine Hundred to replace state Rep. Wayne A. Smith, the House majority leader who is resigning, but for some reason, they want to keep it a secret.

It must be a first -- a political party that does not want publicity for a candidate. It is particularly odd because a special election is a shortened, super-charged campaign, and every day counts.

Not that the Republicans could keep the candidate's name from circulating in the porous world of state politics. It would be a surprise if it turns out to be anyone other than James T. Bowers, a past Brandywine Region Republican vice chair who also is a former chair of the 7th Representative District, where he lives next door to Smith in Clair Manor.

State Republican Chair Terry A. Strine said the party was delaying the release of the name because it has not been presented officially to New Castle County Republican Chair Kelly L. Gates. Under state law, the Republican and Democratic county chairs are responsible for nominating the candidates in special elections.

Gates, who did not participate in the search committee's deliberations, said she expects to be guided by its recommendation. "It makes sense to have the region and the representative district make the decision. They know the people. Whatever they decide in terms of a candidate, I will respect that," she said.

The winner of the special election will serve the bulk of Smith's two-year term, which lasts until 2008. He announced Tuesday that he is resigning, effective Monday, March 12, from the seat he has occupied since 1990 to run the Delaware Healthcare Association, a lobbying alliance for the state's major health facilities, including Christiana Care, Bayhealth and Beebe.

The special election has not been scheduled yet, but under the state law for filling vacancies, it must be held sometime in March or April.

The Republicans, who hold a 500-vote registration edge in the district, also have the jump on the Democrats by being the first with a candidate. The Democrats have an informational meeting scheduled Thursday in the district to begin their selection.

The leading Democrats for the race are said to be: David D. Brady, a former state representative who lost to Smith in 2002 when their districts were combined in redistricting; Carl Colantuono, who ran against Smith in 2006; and Patricia Morrison, a state Senate candidate in 2006.

It is no surprise that both parties are focusing on candidates with campaign experience. In special elections, there is no time to spare for a learning curve -- and not much time to squander by keeping a candidate under wraps.