Posted: March 12, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Brandywine Hundred Democrats selected Bryon H. Short to run in a special election after former state Rep. David D. Brady, regarded as the likely candidate  because of his name recognition and experience, had second thoughts about a possible comeback and dropped out.

Short, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, will oppose Republican James T. Bowers in the campaign to replace Wayne A. Smith, who gave up his seat and his post as House Republican majority leader for a job running a health care trade association.

The election has not been scheduled yet but is expected to be held in April.

Short, 41, of Highland Woods, emerged as the Democrats' choice Monday evening at a meeting attended by about 40 party members at Lancashire Elementary School on Naamans Road.

Short, who worked for Carper when he was a congressman and governor, currently is involved in small-scale neighborhood redevelopment, fixing up blighted properties in Wilmington.

Going into the meeting, the Democrats had expected to winnow a field of five candidates, but Brady and Stephen P. Tanzer, who ran against Smith in 2004, both withdrew before the vote. Brady, a legislator for 20 years until he lost to Smith in 2002 when their districts were combined in redistricting, said family considerations led him to change his mind.

With all 11 members of the 7th Representative District Democratic Committee present and voting, Short won 7-4 by written ballot against Carl Colantuono, who lost to Smith in 2006. Jeffrey K. Politis, a political newcomer who is a Hercules manager from Arden, did not get any votes.

"Tomorrow we crank up the campaign. My job is going to be out meeting with people, making that personal connection," Short said.

The Democrats have some catching up to do. Yard signs already were evident in the district for Bowers, 48, a Verizon sales manager and former Brandywine Region Republican vice chair who lives next door to Smith in Clair Manor.

The outcome of the election will not change the balance of power in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans have a 23-18 majority, but it will say something about the political leanings in Brandywine Hundred, which used to be a hard-core Republican vote until it was cracked in 2004 by the election of state Rep. Diana M. McWilliams in one of the area's four districts.

The registration favors the Republicans, who hold a 500-vote advantage over the Democrats in the district. Smith won nine elections in a row there, since he first was elected in 1990.

There was no doubt that the Democrats were taking this election seriously. House Democratic Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan and Minority Whip Helene M. Keeley both attended the meeting to watch the candidate selection.

"We're very pleased. We're looking forward to an enthusiastic, successful race," Gilligan said.

Special elections for replacing House members are not subtle campaigns. Turnout typically is microscopic -- it was 15 percent in the last one that sent state Rep. Hazel D. Plant, a Wilmington Democrat, to Dover in 2001 -- so it comes down to which party performs better in getting out its vote.

"The mechanics are not hard. The candidate's job is to make the Democrats vote for him. My job is to get those Democrats out," said John D. Daniello, the Democratic state chair who lives in the district himself.

As much as the special election is brute political force, the Democrats also signaled that their campaign strategy will be to tie Bowers to Smith and his conservative politics.

New Castle County Democratic Chair James F. Paoli quipped about the Republicans' candidate, "They're running Smith Lite."