Posted: April 2, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

How slow is Delaware politics? So slow that close to a hundred people showed up to listen to the Democratic candidates running for treasurer and auditor.

Treasurer and auditor. The human abacus types?

Even they can get a crowd when the top of the Democratic ticket, with Chris Coons for senator, John Carney for congressman and Beau Biden for attorney general, is running for re-election in 2014 without a Republican opponent in sight, let alone a Democratic primary challenger.

"This really is heartwarming. People staying at nine o'clock listening to an auditor's debate," said Ken Matlusky, who is gamely making his second try for the nomination for auditor.

The Democratic forum, held Tuesday evening at Marbrook Elementary School at Prices Corner, brought out local party members who will be deciding on endorsements for the primary in September. A number of officials also attended, like Tom Gordon, the New Castle County executive who is not up this year, and Bob Gilligan, the national committeeman who used to be the speaker.

Coons was not there. Carney was not there. Biden was not there.

It meant the biggest excitement would be the opportunity to see whether Chip Flowers, the first-term Democratic treasurer, has come around on one of the fundamental rules of politics, namely, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Not a chance.

"You just don't go along to get along or go along trying to go become lieutenant governor or governor. That's not me. If it means my career ends at state treasurer, so be it," Flowers said.

The focus for much of the evening seemed to stay on the capers of Flowers' office, the issues with credit card use, travel and personnel, along with the power struggle with the Cash Management Policy Board, which considered the state's investment practices in placid obscurity until Flowers turned it into a household word, at least in political circles.

It all helped to put Flowers on the wrong side of a lot of the Democratic establishment, including the governor, the attorney general, various Cabinet officers and the legislative leadership.

Sometimes it seemed like all the rest of the candidates at the forum were running against Flowers.

Naturally, Sean Barney was. Barney, previously an aide in the governor's office for Jack Markell and the Senate office of Tom Carper, is taking on Flowers for the nomination to run against Ken Simpler Jr., who so far is unopposed on the Republican side. Colin Bonini, a Republican state senator who was the nominee four years ago, is also thinking about it.

"I don't think the next four years are the time to litigate over the powers of the office," Barney said.

The candidates for auditor also could not resist a detour into the treasurer's race.

They are Brenda Mayrack, a lawyer and the party's past executive director, and Ken Matlusky, a CPA who was an also-ran four years ago and all-but-conceded he probably would be again, by plaintively noting his wife recently became a citizen, so at least she would vote for him.

The Democrats are interested in taking out Tom Wagner, the auditor for 25 years and the last Republican standing in statewide office.

Mayrack managed to zing both Wagner and Flowers with a single sentence, saying, "It's a fair question to ask, where has the auditor been on state credit card issues?"

Matlusky piled on by pledging, "I promise I will never-ever-ever-ever-ever spend a single cent of taxpayer money on out-of-state trips."

So there was Flowers, like the cheese standing alone. Maybe his whole approach is what got him there, even the way he introduced himself, declaring, "This election is about you. Let me tell you a little bit about what I've done as your state treasurer."

It was like the classic line, but-enough-about-you-let's-talk-about-me. Sure enough, people are.