Posted: March 7, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Joe Farley Sr., the businessman, lobbyist, political wise guy and once-upon-a-time chair of the Delaware Democratic Party, just won a highly respected community service award from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

He should live long enough to get a political service award from his fellow Democrats.

The good Democratic Farley name is currently part of a great disturbance in the political atmosphere here, invisible except to the dumbfounded insiders, Democrats and Republicans alike.

It seems there are Democratic print shops and Republican print shops for campaign literature. While the two sides have patronized a number of shops through the years, the most prominent were Farley Printing for the Democrats and Associates International for the Republicans.

Farley Printing has been Farley's baby since the 1970s. Although he turned operations over to Joe Jr., his son, about 20 years ago, the Democrats still associate it with Joe Sr.

At Associates International, the associate with the best political connections is Charlie Copeland, a Republican and du Pont family member who used to be the state Senate minority leader and ran for lieutenant governor in 2008.

Without warning, the two shops recently merged under the Associates International name.

Farley became Charlie. The Democrats' reaction was, well, unprintable.

This is the start of an election year, and the candidates need a printer they can count on. The classic case, seared in the memory of both parties, was an open race for state representative in Brandywine Hundred in 2004.

As Election Day approached, Republican Stacy Griggs circulated a hard-hitting flier against Democrat Diana McWilliams. The frantic Democrats went to Farley Printing, which turned out a rebuttal piece within 24 hours. The Democrats won the seat.

Print shops have had it rough of late. Cheap offers beckon from the Internet, and people make do with desktop publishing. Consolidation is sort of inevitable, even if it leads to a political alliance people never saw coming.

Farley Sr. is as much a part of the political life in this state as Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners. Not only was he the Democratic chair in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a county councilman beforehand and currently runs a lobbying firm called First State Strategies.

He is quick with the quips that get him called upon to be a master of ceremonies at various events and a regular at the annual First State Gridiron Dinner & Show. He has done good works -- "You have to do the best for your fellow man, no sense whining" -- most notably with the St. Patrick's Day Society charity, which earned him the recognition from the county chamber.

No matter. The Farley name is off the print shop, and the Democrats are just not going to Charlie Copeland. Not to mention they are not going anyplace that is not union-organized with the work it turns out displaying the union bug. That is not Associates International.

They will take their business, which can run a robust six figures in a campaign season, elsewhere.

"I have my file, and it has been transferred to a new printing company," one Democratic official said. "Without a doubt, Joe and family always knew what we needed and were at the ready."

The Republicans get it, too. "Democrats can't use anything that isn't the union bug. Charlie was a Republican officeholder. He's part of our 'family,' and you want to support your own and someone who supports you," a Republican operative said.

Copeland insisted the Democrats really did not have to leave. He protested, but not strenuously.

"The only difference between Associates and Farley was the buildings. I've printed a lot of stuff for a lot of people over the years. If the money they're spending is green, I'd be happy to help them spend it," Copeland said.

"Joe Jr. will make sure it's done right and out on time and Copeland doesn't see it."

Thanks but no thanks. The Democrats have their own ideas about the turn of events, and it goes something like this.

Republicans are red/Democrats are blue/The union bug has got to be there, too.