Posted: April 13, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Look at the Delaware Democratic Party. The executive officers give it the air of a merger between the parent organization and some sort of legislative subsidiary.

Bob Gilligan, the speaker in the state House of Representatives, is the Democratic national committeeman. Margaret Rose Henry, the majority whip in the state Senate, is the party secretary. Helene Keeley, a state representative, is the party treasurer.

The Delaware Republican Party traditionally is not that way, with no legislators in the organizational leadership, but it could change.

Greg Lavelle, the House Republican minority whip, is taking soundings about running for vice chair when the party elects new officers at a state convention scheduled for April 30 in Dover.

"It's similar to submarines going out to find mines," Lavelle quipped. "I'm seriously considering it."

The Democrats certainly have not been hurt with legislators in their party leadership. They have been trouncing the Republicans at the polls, particularly in the past two elections, which have given them eight of the nine statewide offices, everything but auditor, and control of the General Assembly.

The 2008 election was one of those landslides the state Republicans could do little about, burdened as they were by two wars dragging on and the economy hitting the skids while their party was in the White House. Not to mention Joe Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket.

The 2010 election was different. The state Republicans did it to themselves. Their party won all around the country but not here, not with the inner chasm that opened after the Senate primary between Mike Castle and Christine O'Donnell.

The Republicans are trying to knit themselves back together. Notably it is the party regulars who look to be taking control, not the Tea Party irregulars.

John Sigler, a past president of the National Rifle Association and a former Kent County Republican chair, has all the appearance of a shoo-in as the next state chair. Tom Ross, the current chair, has eased himself out of the way, and Sigler's only opponent is Mike Protack, a perennial candidate with a case of the runs once again.

Lavelle, as a legislative leader, certainly comes with the trappings of the party establishment. If he runs as expected, he should have little trouble dispatching Don Ayotte, a Tea Party type who had announced for state chair but then switched to vice chair, the better to avoid a shootout with Sigler. It certainly looked like a good idea until Lavelle came along. From a rock to a hard place.

The current state chair is Cathy Murray, but she is leaving out of solidarity with Sigler. Both of them are from Kent County, and the party rules prohibit a chair and vice chair from the same region.

If Sigler and Lavelle are not exactly a ticket, they sound something like a tag team talking.

"Greg brings tremendous knowledge and expertise to the table. It would be exciting to have somebody of his caliber on the executive committee. If I am successful and he is successful, I have no doubt we can work well together," Sigler said.

"I think the world of John Sigler. The relationship between the legislature and the legislators and the party can be improved. The goal of the Republican State Committee, as John Sigler says, is to elect Republicans, and we are the Republicans who have been elected," Lavelle said.

Lavelle would get no argument there from the other side of the House aisle.

"I wish him well. I think elected officials should be involved in the party," Gilligan said.

Now if the Republicans can only find someone to run for governor -- not to mention the Senate and the House and lieutenant governor -- they could be a real party.