Posted: March 2, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Grim Reaper is more likely to claim a state senator than the Grim Voter.

This is the case over the past 10 years in the Senate, where there were only three involuntary exits.

Mortality counted for two of them, responsible for the departures of Democrats Thurman Adams Jr. and Jim Vaughn Sr., although to be precise about it, Vaughn resigned days before he died.

An election provided a rude ending just once. It came from Republican-on-Republican political violence with Charlie Copeland taking out Dallas Winslow in a primary.

Oaths of office usually finish with the words, "So help me God." The senators seem to think their version goes on to say, "'Til death do us part."

It does not look like the 2010 election will do anything to change the senatorial mind.

The Senate has 10 of its 21 members up for election -- McDowell, Cloutier, Blevins, Sokola, Connor, McBride, Ennis, Cook, Booth and Bunting.

Here are the ones yet to draw a serious challenger -- McDowell, Cloutier, Blevins, Sokola, Connor, McBride, Ennis, Cook, Booth and Bunting.

Yes, 10 out of 10. People did not expect the Senate as a whole to be competitive, not with the Democrats holding a 15-6 advantage in the chamber they have controlled since 1973, but not a single, solitary Senate seat?

"The Democrats are prepared to defend the seats that we have, and we're also seeking candidates against the three Republicans that are running," said Patti Blevins, the Democratic majority leader.

"We're optimistic. A number of people are looking for candidates, and we've got some on the horizon," said Liane Sorenson, the Republican minority whip.

So the parties are trying. Really they are. Really.

Imagine how nervous Dave McBride must be. He is a Democrat representing a heavily Democratic district stretched across Newport, Wilmington Manor, New Castle and Bear. McBride has not had a Republican run against him since 1986.

This is not to say Senate campaigns are always walkovers. With 11 seats up in 2008, there were four competitive races. Two of them were throat tightening.

Sorenson, the minority whip, had to fend off a rising Democratic registration in her Newark-Hockessin district and an Obama/Markell tide to keep her seat by about 350 votes. This, even though she had $70,000 to spend against $17,000 for her Democratic opponent.

The election in a Chateau Country district for an open seat was even closer -- not even 300 votes to send Michael Katz, the Democrat, to Dover and John Clatworthy, the Republican, to defeat.

The reality is, the Senate is not getting much attention because other races are.

The Republicans look focused on putting Mike Castle in the U.S. Senate, trying to swipe a statewide office from the Democrats with Colin Bonini for treasurer, and crossing their fingers to retake the majority in the state House of Representatives.

The Democrats appear intent on making John Carney a congressman, re-electing Beau Biden as attorney general and keeping the state House.

It means the Senate will have to look after itself. As long as the majority is not at stake, and it is not, then incumbency rules.

This is a Senate? Maybe a House of Lords. The seats have not gone hereditary yet, at least not officially. There is that Kent County district held by the Cooks, a Democratic family, since 1956 -- passing by special election to Nancy Cook from her her husband Allen "Cookie" Cook after he died in 1974.

Tom Cook, the son, is making his mark as the state finance secretary, so give it time.