Posted: May 5, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

This one was no wimpy Gridiron. This was a bad-ass Gridiron.

It rocked with the last act of the night, the spot reserved for the governor to have the final word. Instead of Gentleman Jack Markell, the genial two-term Democrat, the guy who stomped onstage was Bad-Ass Jack, as he called himself.

Bad-Ass Jack wore a bad-ass black leather jacket, bad-ass sunglasses and a bad-ass earring, and he was smoking a bad-ass cigarette.

Bad-Ass Jack ripped everyone and everything he wanted, as he strutted in front of a crowd of about 560 people, gathered Saturday evening in Wilmington at the Chase Center on the Riverfront for the First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, the annual political roast.

"Bad-Ass Jack tells it like it is. Bad-Ass Jack refers to himself in the third person. Like The Rock. Or Elmo. Or the People's Treasurer," he sneered.

"New Bad-Ass Jack is going to start with the gas tax. . . . The Republicans say we should just cut spending. Wow, what a great idea! Why didn't I think of that? But what would they cut that we haven't already thought of? The budget's been picked cleaner than the evidence locker at the Medical Examiner's Office."

Bad-Ass Jack was just getting warmed up.

"There's an election this year, and once again, the Republicans don't have candidates for the big seats. Their state party director said they have a 'long-term view' of rebuilding the party. Yeh, like I have a 'long-term' view of building electric cars at Boxwood Road," he cracked.

"Old Jack's political hero was Barack Obama. He's calm, reasonable and always willing to negotiate. New Jack's idol is Vladimir Putin. He's aggressive, he's unrelenting, and he is shirtless.

"Putin annexed Crimea. I want Chateau Country. I would unify our bluebloods and protect our vital supply line to Janssen's. I would annex Longwood Gardens, and I would occupy the Brandywine River Museum, and that would be real convenient when we have to restock the Delaware Art Museum."

Funny, Bad-Ass Jack was such a bad-ass, it was a back-ass reminder that here in Delaware, people really are supposed to like each other. Otherwise, it might as well be New Jersey.

The counterpoint to Bad-Ass Jack was Charming Collin. He is a young thing and cannot leave his mother, or at least he looks that way, this Collin O'Mara, the secretary of DNREC, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

The governor gets a standing ovation because he is the governor, although this year he earned it for vamping for time when it was not discovered until he was onstage that nobody had remembered to load his script into the prompter. Charming Collin got a standing ovation because he deserved it.

Charming Collin was already the talk of the town, because he is being spirited away at the tender age of 35 to become the next president of the National Wildlife Federation. He became the talk of Gridiron with a song he wrote himself in Gilbert & Sullivan patter and then performed. Part of it went:

I've built up all your beaches, and I've fixed the failing dams and dikes,

Told you to send your kids outside, so we do not have obese tykes.

In short, in matters parks and rec, in wildlife, fish and hugging trees,

I am the very model of a modern DNREC secret'ry.

It was a good night to be Bad-Ass Jack. It was a good night to be Charming Collin. But Chris Coons? Not so much.

Coons, the Democratic senator, was not there due to a family outing. Always a bad idea. He was a running joke of the night for running for re-election without an opponent while still badgering everyone endlessly for contributions.

The topper came from Ruth Ann Minner, the Democratic ex-governor, appearing by video to gibe, "Another appeal? Don't they know I'm on a fixed income?"

Still, Coons got off easily compared to Chip Flowers, the previously mentioned third-person-referring "People's Treasurer." Flowers was not at the Gridiron, either, although tellingly both of his opponents were, namely, Sean Barney, the Democratic primary challenger, and Ken Simpler, the Republican candidate.

Flowers was lampooned for his futile power struggle to take away control of the state's investment practices from the Cash Management Policy Board and for his freewheeling travel.

It was laid out in this year's rendition of "Don't Cry For Me," the signature song from Lynda Maloney, once the first lady of Wilmington but forever the first lady of Gridiron:

Conflict often happens, it never ends,

But you're not making any friends

With the constant clashes that come to no good.

You cast aspersions,

Criticizing your cash policy board.

Let them do what they should.

Harmony might be your reward.


Don't cry for me, Treasurer Flowers.

The truth is, they stripped your powers.

But I am guessin', you've learned your lesson --

For rooms and eats, save your receipts.

Outside afterwards, the moon was a Cheshire Cat grin. It must have seen that bad-ass show.