Posted: April 25, 2006


Carney stands tall in Legislative Hall

From Gov. Ruth Ann Minner down to first-term state representatives, Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. has moved forcefully within Legislative Hall to pick up backing from his fellow Democrats for his run for governor in 2008.

Carney emerged this week with a near-monopoly of insider support after Minner weighed in with a letter on his behalf and almost every Democratic legislator along with the secretary of state and some top lobbyists signed on as sponsors for a fund-raiser for him in May.

It was an aggressive showing while state Treasurer Jack A. Markell, also regarded as a potential Democratic candidate for governor, doggedly focuses on his 2006 campaign for a third term and resists being drawn into discussions about his political future.

Legislative Hall does not necessarily hold sway in state politics. Otherwise, House Speaker Terry R. Spence would have been the Republican nominee for governor years ago.

Still, it does say something when Carney is embraced by the politicians who know him well from working with him as a two-term lieutenant governor who presides over the Senate and as the finance secretary when U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper was governor.

Carney downplayed his Legislative Hall coup. "At the moment I'm the only declared candidate for governor," he said.

Probably it was only a matter of time before Minner sided with Carney. What else was she going to do? Repudiate the lower half of the Minner-Carney ticket?

Her letter, apparently sent to her own major contributors, sets aside any neutrality to ask the recipients to join her in supporting Carney, especially by sending him $1,200, the maximum donation under state law.

The letter begins, "I am writing to you today to tell you why I am supporting John Carney to be our next governor and to ask you to give him your strong personal and financial support."

It ends, "Being governor also gives me a unique understanding of what it takes to do this job. That's why I'm supporting John Carney. With your help, I am confident he will be an outstanding governor for the state of Delaware."

For a contributor who wants to send less than the maximum, there is that $100-a-ticket fund-raiser on May 9 in Dover with its effusion of Legislative Hall backing.

Senate President Pro Tem Thurman G. Adams Jr. and House Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan lead the list of the event's legislative sponsors, who include 11 of 13 Senate Democrats and 13 of 15 House Democrats. Other sponsors are Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor and also Robert L. Byrd and Edward R. "Ned" Davis, a pair of a lobbyists who are part of Minner's kitchen Cabinet.

While sponsorship is not precisely a commitment to supporting Carney for governor, it certainly comes close. "I think the 24 out of 28 legislators knew what they were signing on to. I know I did," Gilligan said.

The Legislative Hall showing does not seem to be deterring Markell, who appears to be calculating that voters may prefer more of an outsider, detached or at least semi-detached from a governing class of dubious popularity.

"I continue to be focused on my re-election for state treasurer, so I can remain an active and independent voice for the people of Delaware," he said.

The party line has not changed, either. "The party obviously does not want to see a primary," said John D. Daniello, the Democratic state chairman. "First things first, we've got an election in 2006."

Bonini is out

Jack Markell's focus on his re-election still does not include an opponent. State Sen. Colin R.J. Bonini, a Dover Republican, took a long look over the past several weeks at running for treasurer, but he said Tuesday he would not.

It was not political considerations keeping him out of a race against an incumbent with a million-dollar campaign treasury, but a family emergency that will require his attention for some time in California, where he grew up.

Otherwise, Bonini said he had decided to run. "I literally had called [Republican] State Committee and said, let's do it," he said.