Posted: April 1, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Nobody looking at the schedule for Tom Carper suspected anything.

It said he would go to Legislative Hall in Dover today for a special tribute to Ruth Ann Minner.

All right, maybe it seemed a little odd. After all, it had been a political marriage of convenience back in the '90s when Carper was the Democratic governor and Minner was the Democratic lieutenant governor, but who knows? Maybe they had kissed and made up.

Ha! Minner was nowhere to be found. It was all a ruse.

Instead, Carper commandeered the grand staircase rising from the lobby to the governor's office on the second floor and revealed what he really had in mind for this so-called special tribute.

"People failed to notice. Ruth Ann was actually a three-term governor. She served out the last days of my second term as governor, when I left for Washington to be sworn in as a senator, and then she was elected to two terms on her own. That makes three terms," Carper said.

"Anything Ruth Ann can do, I can do better. I want to be a three-term governor. Actually, governor for life! It was the best job I ever had, and ever since then, I've called myself a recovering governor. Now I am recovering the governorship. Jack Markell, you are no longer the Democratic governor. I'm giving you five minutes to get out of that office!"

Markell could not abdicate fast enough. "Fine," he said. "You deal with the legislature. They always liked John Carney best."

Markell swooped up everything of value in the office and fled. When Carper entered, there was nothing left except for plans for a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax and a cut in the senior property-tax subsidy, along with some introductory remarks welcoming Fisker to Delaware.

Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator, was outraged. The diet he puts himself on whenever he gets a notion to run for statewide office was actually working this time, so he ran up the steps and pounded on the door.

"Tom Carper, you get out of there! The voters can't wait to elect me governor in 2016. I'm taking this up with the Supreme Court!" Bonini said.

The only response was demonic laughter.

No wonder. Leo Strine Jr., the chief justice, got his start as Carper's counsel to the governor. In a flash Strine put out an advisory opinion blessing Carper's return.

"The state constitution says nobody can be elected to more than two terms as governor. It doesn't say somebody can't be governor longer than that," Strine said.

"Besides, T.C. -- that's 'Tom Carper' to people who aren't as tight with him as I am -- has agreed that I can not only be the chief justice, but the prison commissioner, based on the famous speech I gave when I compared the incarceration rate in Delaware to North Korea," Strine added.

"I mean, why can't our incarceration record be more like Russia? I can't think of anything better than being the prison commissioner incarcerating Pussy Riot."

To make the governorship even more secure, Carper decided he needed a lieutenant governor. Strine signed off on that, too.

"The state constitution says the lieutenant governor shall be chosen in the same manner as the governor. One usurpation deserves another," Strine said.

Carper hardly had to think about the right person for lieutenant governor. Who better than Mike Castle? After all, before Castle became a Republican governor and congressman, he had experience being dwarfed as the lieutenant governor for Pete du Pont.

Castle declined, only to make a counteroffer. "I'd prefer to go with another job swap, like the one we did when you became the governor and I became the congressman," Castle told Carper.

"I'd take an appointment to your Senate seat. After all, I was on my way to the Senate when I was so rudely interrupted."

Carper wondered who else he could invite to be the lieutenant governor. Maybe Beau Biden? It would be like another job swap, only this time with Beau and Matt Denn exchanging places as the Democratic attorney general and lieutenant governor.

Beau said yes. "It's perfect," he said. "It will be just like the way it is now. It will make people keep thinking that I think that they think that I'm in line to be the next governor."

Beau went on, "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but there's no time like today to make all of them April Fools."