Posted: April 27, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The national political director for the Republicans showed up for the state convention here to promise that the party's top leadership is committed to resurrecting all of the state parties.

He could hardly have found a better place to try.

For the Delaware Republicans, they have been like a party caught in quicksand. The more they struggle to get themselves out, the deeper they get themselves in.

They are a party that has sunk to one statewide official with Tom Wagner, the state auditor, who was introduced drolly as "he who stands alone," as well as to the minority in the General Assembly and to a 120,000-voter deficit to the Democrats in the registration rolls.

A lot of it dates back to the candidacy of you-know-who.

As if the political gods wanted to make that very point, Mike Castle showed up for the part of the convention held Friday night at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, while Christine O'Donnell showed up for the part held Saturday at the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Wilmington.

Even though the speakers preached unity, unity, unity, this was a convention baring some cleavage.

It was there not just in the separate Castle and O'Donnell sightings, but in the convention's prime purpose of electing a slate of party officers for the next two years.

Although John Sigler, the state chair running for a second term, had no opposition, and neither did the candidates for treasurer or secretary, the election for vice chair became another one of those unhelpful showdowns between the regular party and the tea party.

Ruth Briggs King, a state representative from Sussex County, was the candidate out of the regular party. As Greg Lavelle, the Senate minority whip who nominated her, said, "Ruth knows we need to add legislators to the Delaware General Assembly by defeating Democrats."

Nelly Jordan, a local party official from Sussex County, was the candidate out of the tea party. In her platform, she said, "Our candidates and state officers appreciate us greatly until 'We The People' attempt to enter state leadership positions. This is where I come in. My name is Nelly Jordan, and I am one of you, 'We The People.'"

The vote was not even close. The tea party made more inroads, as the convention delegates went for Jordan by 158-132.

The tea party also prevailed when it beat back a proposed rule change that in the interest of efficiency would have automatically designated the state chair and state secretary as the convention officers in most cases, instead of subjecting them to a committee vote first.

The tea party was having none of it. "We the people should hold the reins. You give away this, and you give away that, and what's the sense of having a convention?" said Tom Jordan, a Sussex County delegate who is the husband of the new vice chair.

The convention did have its lighter moments. Lavelle probably had the line of the day when he cracked to the delegates, "I assured a little bit earlier Wilmington City Council member and proud Republican Party member Mike Brown that if there are any tussles in here today, we will not be contacting the state police."

This was, of course, a not-so-subtle reference to Brown's call for an investigation into what brought Elmer Setting, the New Castle County police chief, into Wilmington when the city police had jurisdiction over a scuffle involving David Grimaldi, the chief administrative officer for Tom Gordon, the Democratic county executive.

There was also a memorable double entendre delivered by Sigler, probably unintentionally, but who knows? Just minutes after Christine O'Donnell arrived at the convention, he announced it was time to elect the party officers.

"It is the witching hour," Sigler said.