Posted: May 13, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Democrats were so close to holding an orderly convention. So close.

They had booklets with all the resolutions and rule changes they intended to consider. They had pretty, color-coded credentials -- blue for their delegates, green for alternates, orange for staff.

They elected a new slate of officers to take them through the 2014 and 2016 elections in something like three and a half minutes, no nominating speeches, no debate, no opposition, nothing but a voice vote of acclamation.

Will Rogers must have been ready to start spinning in his grave. His Democratic Party, a paragon of parliamentary perfection? No way!

No way. It was more than any self-respecting Democrat could put up with, and sure enough, the delegates fell to feuding and fussing as about 400 of them got together Saturday at the Dover campus of Delaware Technical & Community College.

Will Rogers could rest in peace.

Maybe it was the state Republicans' fault. They railed at their own convention last month that Delaware had descended into a one-party system, what with the governor and lieutenant governor, the congressional delegation, the legislature and every statewide officer, except for the auditor, all belonging to the other side.

John Daniello, re-elected as the Democratic chair, all but said the Democrats had no one to debate with, but themselves.

"I want to take just one shot at my Republican counterparts. One of their spokesmen made the statement this is a one-party state, and that's a bad thing. . . . I absolutely, positively agree with the Republican Party," Daniello said.

"I want to challenge that party, the party of 'no,' to get a goal. . . . If only we could get the Republicans to start arguing with us. I invite them to argue with you all. We'll win that debate, and we'll win the election. If they don't change, yes, our mission, our goal, is a one-party state."

It sounded like fighting words, so the Democrats got to fighting for the sake of fighting. If they had really wanted to fight -- and why would they, after such success at the polls -- they would not have installed their new officers so peaceably.

In addition to Daniello, the top officials are: Lisa Goodman, a lawyer who is the president of Equality Delaware, the gay advocacy group, as a vice chair; Jim Hussey, retired from the electricians' union, also as a vice chair; Bob Gilligan, the retired speaker, as the national committeeman; and Karen Valentine, a staff member of the state employees union, as the national committeewoman.

After the tidy election, a messy convention broke out.

John Kowalko, a state representative from Newark, did what he could to hijack it with the prominent assistance of Connie Merlet, his wife, and Sam Guy, a Wilmington ex-councilman.

There was squabbling about a lack of diversity on the platform committee. There were issues about the way the party adopts its rules. There were motions put forth and amendments to the motions, not to mention amendments to amendments and motions to table and to strike and to recess.

The convention business carried on for three hours, and who knows how long it would have gone on, if the room booked for it was not also scheduled for another event afterwards, and campus security was getting antsy to clear out the Democrats.

It got them to agree on something -- a motion to adjourn.

The convention coincided with the celebration of the 375th anniversary of the arrival of the Swedes here in Delaware. If the Swedes had known the settlement they founded in the New World would come down to this, they might not have bothered.