Posted: April 17, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Rudolph W. Giuliani made some new very best friends when he came to Wilmington in January to receive the "Pete du Pont Individual Freedom Award" at a gala dinner for the Delaware Republicans.

It was nice to meet the political celebrity known as "America's Mayor." It was even nicer that Giuliani's appearance raised $130,000 for the party. It was nicest of all when he took the check for $10,000 that went with his award and gave it back.

His new chums call him "Rudy" now. They would like to call him "Mr. President" next.

They started to do their part Monday morning when about 40 of them met for breakfast in Wilmington to set up a campaign organization to work for Giuliani in the state's presidential primary Feb. 5.

It is a serious effort on behalf of New York's former mayor. The politics will be coordinated by Priscilla B. Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman. The fund raising will be handled by Frank A. Ursomarso Sr., the auto dealership owner who worked in the White House during the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations.

"Most presidential candidates come to Delaware to take something out -- money or votes. Rudy came to Delaware to put something in. I'm going to be leading the charge for Rudy. I am inspired by his leadership and the way he connects with people," Rakestraw said.

"Rudy Giuliani, I've known for 30 years. I can see him sitting in the Oval Office,"  Ursomarso said. The two met because Ursomarso worked on Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh's first campaign in 1978, and the campaign manager was Giuliani's law school roommate.

Giuliani is the second Republican candidate with a startup operation here. John McCain's campaign officially launched in February when U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, state House Speaker Terry R. Spence and National Committeeman John R. Matlusky all signed on.

Mitt Romney also is expected to have a presence, although there is nothing formal yet. Sussex County Republican Chair David M. Burris is talking him up.

Other Delawareans who have committed to Giuliani's campaign include William E. Manning and Robert W. Perkins, who were both top aides to Gov. Pierre S. du Pont, state Rep. Pamela S. Maier and Wilmington Councilman Michael A. Brown Sr.

Beyond Giuliani's iconic performance on Sept. 11, he seems to be a fit for the upstate moderate Republicans, who still hold sway in the party, because of his politics. He is a mayor who cut taxes, a law-and-order prosecutor and a social moderate. (Also a liberal on marriage, but there is no such thing as a perfect candidate.)

"The Republican Party needs to scramble the eggs. It needs to re-examine its strict social-issues approach to the nominating process," Perkins said.

Giuliani is scheduled to return to Wilmington for a splashy breakfast on June 14, and that trip ought to bring dividends, too. Right up there with raising money in politics is having a presidential candidate pay attention.