Posted: May 17, 2006


Presidential payoff

This business of running for president pays handsomely. At least it does for U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle.

Castle is not running for president himself, of course, but he happens to be the only major Republican officeholder in a state scheduled to hold an early primary in 2008. His endorsement would mean plenty to a candidate trying to break out of the presidential scrum.

The result is that the contenders have come a-courting. U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, appeared at one of Castle's fund-raisers last month, and now U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, will do the same Saturday in Dewey Beach.

Between the two of them, Castle could add another $60,000 or $80,000 to his campaign treasury, which previously contained a comfortable $1.2 million as of his last finance report for March 31. Castle, who is already the longest-serving congressman in Delaware history, is running for his eighth term with opposition from Democrat Dennis Spivack, whose campaign account is not only anemic but $90,000 in debt to himself.

"I am honored to welcome Sen. John McCain, probably the nation's most popular politician, to Delaware this coming weekend," Castle said in a press release. "It will be fun to show off Sussex County to him."

McCain's arrival will make Sussex County the center of Delaware politics for the day. While he mingles with Castle's crowd at the beach, there will be a huge "Tribute to Tina Fallon" going on across the county in Seaford to honor the 88-year-old Republican legislator and former school teacher who is retiring after representing the area for 28 years.

McCain has been to Delaware for Castle before, for a fund-raiser in 2002. Interestingly, his trip then also coincided with another major event -- a National Jewish Fund gala honoring U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. Both functions were held in Wilmington with Castle and McCain at the Hotel du Pont and Biden at MBNA, and at one point Castle and McCain walked across Rodney Square so McCain could acknowledge his Democratic colleague.

It would be nice if McCain could find a way to drop in on Fallon. There is no doubt she would say to McCain, who is 69, what she once said to the 66-year-old Castle -- "If he'd grown up in Seaford, I would have been his teacher."

Holland in England

Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland is on the Delaware bench, and it has left him fascinated with an English table.

This is not just any table. It is 30 feet long, its four planks fashioned from a single majestic oak tree cut from the Windsor Great Forest west of London, and lawyers have been dining there since sometime during the reign of Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603.

So did Holland. In November he spoke to the Society of English and American Lawyers at a dinner served at the table in the famed Middle Temple Hall, the London headquarters of a legal society dating back to the 14th Century, at least.

That makes the table a fairly new acquisition from an English perspective but historic almost beyond comprehension from an American one, even for somebody from a state that was discovered not too long after Queen Elizabeth died.

Holland's speech, recently printed in the Delaware Law Review, was about the legal traditions that English and American lawyers share. Holland is recognized internationally as a legal scholar -- which is one of the reasons he is considered to be in the running, along with U.S. District Judge Kent A. Jordan, for the seat being vacated by U.S. Circuit Judge Jane R. Roth --  but he was so taken by the table that he talked about it first.

"I can't believe I just had dinner at this almost 30-foot long table that was a gift from Queen Elizabeth I," Holland said. "The table has never left this room. According to some historical accounts, the death warrant for Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was signed on its surface."

English law is a mighty fountain, but Holland found a way in his speech to give Delaware its due. He was discussing the Virginia Company, created by royal charter in 1606 to colonize Virginia.

"The Virginia Company's charter was like a certificate of incorporation," Holland said. "We know that if the state of Delaware had existed, they would have incorporated in Delaware."