Posted: March 8, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Michele Rollins, one of Delaware's most prominent business executives whose checkbook has been good for a host of Republican causes, is sending the party's spirits soaring with the word she just might be their congressional candidate.

Rollins was making telephone calls Monday to tell key Republicans about her interest, Delaware Grapevine has learned.

Her entry would upend not only state politics but also the national calculus about the House of Representatives, where the Democratic majority is fighting for its survival.

So much for the assumption the Democrats could pencil in Delaware's lone congressional seat.

John Carney, the former lieutenant governor who is the Democratic candidate, would have to fight for the seat, which is open for the first time in nine terms with Mike Castle switching to the Senate race for the Republicans.

The half-million dollars in Carney's campaign account does not really look daunting anymore.

"Do you believe in miracles?" crowed one Republican who talked to Rollins.

Rollins' interest has the Republicans thinking the worst might be behind them.

Since the 2008 election, their holdings amounted to two of the nine statewide offices and the minority in both chambers of the General Assembly, but politics is nothing if not relentlessly fluid.

The Republicans were buoyed by Castle's resolve to go for the Senate, by three special elections they won for the legislature, by Beau Biden's decision to run again for attorney general and not against Castle, and now this.

Not to mention the Republicans countrywide are looking for a bounce-back year. Not to mention they would not mind the bragging rights for being the party to send the first woman from Delaware to Capitol Hill.

If Rollins runs, Delaware can count on two races with national significance.

Both political parties urgently want to win not only the congressional race but also the senatorial election between Castle and Chris Coons, the Democratic executive in New Castle County, for the seat given up by Joe Biden when he became the Democratic vice president.

Rollins has been mentioned for years as a possible candidate for a major office.

She has a statewide presence because of the business and philanthropic enterprises undertaken with her husband John, who died in 2000, among them Dover Downs, the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover, and the Beebe Medical Center in Lewes. Her primary business involvement now is Rose Hall, a luxury vacation resort in Jamaica.

Rollins, who lives in Chateau Country, has a law degree from Georgetown University and once worked at the federal Securities & Exchange Commission and the Department of the Interior.

The Republicans tried to talk her into running in 2006 against Tom Carper, the Democratic senator who has won 12 statewide races, but she turned them down. Wrong timing, she told them.

So it was. Carney is no pushover, but he is no Carper, either.