Posted: May 4, 2004


Rocket Man

When Penrose Hollins declared his candidacy Monday evening in a three-way Democratic primary for New Castle County Council president, his announcement had a distinctly Wilmington flavor to it.

Why not? The city is his base. It is also where the votes are.

Hollins, the county councilman for Wilmington since 1990, went to the Baby Grand on Market Street for the official start of his campaign. His master of ceremonies was Wilmington Council President Theodore Blunt, a fellow Democrat who is doing in the city what Hollins wants to do in the county.

To make the point about Wilmington stronger, Hollins offered perhaps his biggest applause line when he told the crowd of about 65 well-wishers that he wanted the county to do more for city neighborhoods -- "where people live 24-seven."

When a Wilmington politician like Hollins decides to run countywide, it seems he would want to reach beyond the city limits, but maybe not in this case.

Both of the other Democrats in the race live outside the city. Paul G. Clark is from Pike Creek Valley near Newark, and Dianne M. Kempski is from Middleboro Crest near Newport.

In the 2000 election, when there was a four-way Democratic race for council president, roughly 60 percent of the vote came from Wilmington, where the turnout for a Democratic primary traditionally is larger than the rest of the county.

Christopher A. Coons, a Wilmington resident although he grew up in Hockessin, won the 2000 primary, piling up more votes inside the city than any of his Democratic rivals polled in total. From there, Coons was in position to win the general election for council president, which last went to a Republican in 1988, and he did. He is leaving the post this year to run for county executive.

Win, lose or draw, Hollins will remain on the council. He has two years left on his current term and does not have to resign to run for what would be a new four-year term.

The Republicans also have a primary for council president, although Ernesto B. Lopez of Newark has the party backing and is expected to win easily over Gary L. Bowman of Pleasant Hill near Newport.

All of this interest in the council presidency is somewhat hard to figure, considering that the county government has become a place that only Machiavelli could love. It may get even worse, because the County Council is expanding from seven members to 13.

Hollins, who is the only candidate with council experience, is aware of what he could be getting into. As he put it, "Politics is not rocket science, but it may be easier if it were."


From all appearances Brian J. Bushweller was having about as fine a ceremony as there can be to declare his candidacy for the state Senate.

Bushweller, a Democrat, had commandeered the Old State House, a place of pocket-sized elegance on The Green in Dover. It is not only drenched in Delaware history but conveniently located in the central Kent County district he wants to represent, if he can unseat state Sen. John C. Still III, the Republican minority leader.

Bushweller gathered a trio of Democratic celebrities to send him on his way -- U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell. It was going so well that Carper, a notorious late arrival, was on time for the event on Monday afternoon.

Even better, Bushweller experienced every worker's dream -- praise from the boss in public. Bushweller is on Carper's staff, these days as his state director and previously as the public safety secretary and legislative liaison when Carper was the governor.

Carper predicted that Bushweller would be effective as a legislator from the start, because of his background as Carper's link to the General Assembly. "He knows all the other senators and they know him. He knows all the representatives and they know him," Carper said.

Hold on. If this announcement was as good as it looked, where were all those legislators Bushweller worked so closely with? Not one of them was there.

Maybe it had something to do with the relationship the Carper administration had with the legislature -- which was about as warm as a nuclear winter. The lawmakers used to refer to Bushweller as "Bushwhacker."

"They know him. That's the best I can tell you," Still laughed. "Silence is a wonderful message."

Silent spring

Amid the rush of springtime announcements, mum is still the word from state Sen. Karen E. Peterson, who sent shivers through her fellow Democrats with talk of a primary against Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

As of last week, Peterson still has not ruled it out. The filing deadline is not until July, and she says she has the backing to put together a campaign with a budget of nearly $1.2 million and 400 volunteers.

The longer Peterson waits, the more her candidacy will be regarded as dead, but for now it is still playing possum.