Posted: May 2, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The telephone rang Tuesday morning for Priscilla Rakestraw, back at work in Wilmington at the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, as she adjusted to life as the soon-to-be former Republican national committeewoman.

"One moment for the vice president," said the voice on the telephone.

"The vice president of what?" said Rakestraw in a typical state of distraction. She is the original multi-tasker, always with great gobs of projects going on, so how was she to know which vice president of what was calling from where.

"The . . . vice . . . president . . . of . . . the . . . United . . . States," said the voice, enunciating clearly and slowly, as if talking to an alien from Mars.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., the vice president of the United States of America, was indeed calling, Democrat to Republican, as he also contemplated life with a national committeewoman from the other party not named Rakestraw.

They go back pretty far in state politics, Biden and Rakestraw, with Biden elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and Rakestraw to the Republican National Committee in 1976. Say "Joe" or "Priscilla" to people in politics, and it is enough.

Rakestraw will be out of office at the end of of the Republican national nominating convention this summer in Tampa. She was bushwhacked by elements of her own party and gave way Friday evening at the Republican state convention in Rehoboth Beach to Ellen Barrosse, a businesswoman known in politics up until now as the founder of the pro-life A Rose and A Prayer.

"Priscilla, Joe Biden here," Biden said.

"Mr. Vice President, this is certainly shock and awe," Rakestraw said that she said, recounting the conversation afterwards.

They talked for 23 minutes, but who was counting? They swapped political yarns, and Biden acknowledged Rakestraw's dedication to her party, state and country.

"It was pretty emotional," she said.

Only once before had Rakestraw taken a telephone call from a vice president. The other one came from the first George Bush, asking her to run his 1988 presidential campaign in Delaware, but she told him she was committed to Pete du Pont, the ex-governor who was the favorite son. The irony, all these years later, is that du Pont endorsed Barrosse for national committeewoman.

"I stuck with Pete du Pont, but Pete du Pont didn't stick with me," Rakestraw said, sticking it to du Pont now.

Biden kidded that Rakestraw might not want to tell anyone about their phone call. Ha!

"Mr. Vice President, you can be assured I'll tell the world," Rakestraw said, and she is.

# # #

Ron Sams had a good convention. It was only fair, after the bad one he had the last time.

Sams used to be the Sussex County Republican chair, a steady presence in a county prone to political pyrotechnics, like the noisy blowup it is having now over the police powers, or not, of the county sheriff.

Around the time of the last state convention, the Tea Partiers in the Sussex Republican ranks hounded Sams out of office. In something of a payback to the Tea Partiers at this one, Sams was honored as the Republican of the Year.

This was before Sussex erupted at the state convention in indignation over the slate of delegates going to the national convention, primarily because Tom Ross was on it, and Sussex has not gotten over Ross telling them, when he was the Republican state chair, that the reason he said Christine O'Donnell could not get elected dogcatcher was "because it was true."

Sussex demanded a roll call, but it was outvoted, and the slate of delegates was approved.

Afterwards, a photo of Ron Sams was sent around by smart phone with the mischievous caption, "Miss me yet?"

# # #

The Republicans left their convention with John Sigler, a past president of the National Rifle Association, as their state chair, and Barrosse, the founder of A Rose and A Prayer, as their national committeewoman-elect.

What came next was inevitable. People joked the new name of the party was "Guns N' Roses."