Posted: April 5, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A common thing happened to David H. Ennis, the Republican ex-legislator who ran for insurance commissioner, on his way to political retirement.

He made a U-turn and fetched up back in Dover as a lobbyist.

Ennis is not the only candidate who lost an election in 2004 but was disinclined to disappear. Politics has that sort of a pull on people. It makes them act like blind mice whose tails get cut off with a carving knife but still will not part company with the farmer's wife.

Take Ennis, for instance. "I spent 24 years in the legislature, and it seems to me I still have brain cells that are functioning. My wife says she married me for better or worse, but not for lunch," he said.

At 64, Ennis has morphed into a lobbyist, whose chief client is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware, a major player in the insurance industry he would have regulated if he had won his election against Matthew P. Denn, the Democrat who became the commissioner by outpolling Ennis 53 percent to 47 percent.

Ennis made another major change, too, relocating from Brandywine Hundred to Lewes. Now he makes the drive northward to Legislative Hall to join a lobbying corps that includes a number of other ex-legislators -- such as Robert L. Byrd, the unofficial captain of the corps, and John M. Burris, the 2000 Republican candidate for governor who joined their ranks after losing an election, the way Ennis did.

William Swain Lee could have been excused if he had enough of public life after two heartbreaking campaigns for governor, but he has not gone away, either.

Instead, Lee has come full circle. In his early days in politics in the 1970s, he was a Sussex County lawyer who chaired the Sussex County Republican Party. As of last month, he was a Sussex County lawyer with a mediation practice with the firm of Bifferato Gentilotti & Biden, and he was elected chairman of the Sussex Republicans.

In between, Lee spent 22 years as a judge, came with 44 votes of winning the 2000 Republican nomination for governor, which went to Burris, and made it a close call in 2004 for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat who barely stayed in office with 51 percent of the vote.

"I don't feel I'm old enough to be an elder statesman," Lee, who is 69, said on the eve of his election as county chairman.

James P. Ursomarso, who was Lee's running mate, followed him in making a full circle, although one with a much smaller circumference. Before, during and after his campaign for lieutenant governor, Ursomarso chaired the Wilmington Republicans.

His loss to Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., a Democrat re-elected with 62 percent of the vote, changed not a thing -- except a lot more people learned how to say his name. It comes in two rhyming parts, a rollercoaster-like ER-so-MAR-so, like the childhood game of Marco Polo.

Unsuccessful legislative candidates also found ways to keep their politics alive.

Shirley A. Price, once a three-term Democratic representative, tried to get a Sussex beachfront district back in 2004 from Gerald W. Hocker, the Republican who took it from her two years earlier. When it did not work out, she decided to focus on party politics. Last month Price was elected the chairwoman of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where she can scrap away with Bill Lee.

Republican Paul J. Pomeroy is backing and filling after he tried to begin a political career by running for a Newark representative district, which went to Democrat Teresa L. Schooley. He is unopposed for a Newark City Council seat in voting scheduled for next week. The election is nonpartisan, but hey, it still counts as an election.

The Newark election also brought a surprising name back to public attention. One of the candidates is Sharon Hughes, once a New Castle County Council aide, better known by her initials. She declined to be interviewed about her interest in city politics.

Federal prosecutors wrote about "S.H." in what they awkwardly called the "Sexual Harassment Conflicts of Interest Cover-up Scheme," part of their basis for the indictment of Thomas P. Gordon, the former Democratic county executive, and Sherry L. Freebery, his chief aide.

The prosecutors allege that Gordon and Freebery wanted to hush up S.H. after Gordon had fondled her and keep her from going public about sex-capades involving them and other county officials.

There was a meeting of the minds between Gordon and S.H.'s lawyer, according to the indictment. S.H. quietly won $260,000 in county money, and she may just win the Newark election, too.