Posted: May 1, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Politics is sports for flabby people.

So it probably was inevitable that a politician like Terry Spence, a Republican ex-legislator who used to be the speaker, would wind up chumming around with a revered sports figure like Tubby Raymond, the retired football coach at the University of Delaware.

About three years ago, Raymond painted Spence's portrait. This is part of Raymond's second act.

Raymond used to paint portraits of his football players, but he has moved on to politicians. His portraits can go for $5,000 or $7,500 with the proceeds designated for the Tubby Raymond Fund for charitable causes.

Spence was pleased. He kind-of-sort-of hoped -- all right, whined -- that his portrait should find a home in Legislative Hall in Dover.

His timing was not good, though. The Democrats had taken over the Delaware General Assembly, and the wishes of a Republican ex-speaker were not something to be spoken for.

But this is politics, where there is a celebrated tradition for making things happen. Logrolling!

Raymond got out his paints. He painted Bob Gilligan, the Democratic ex-speaker. He painted Thurman Adams, the late Democratic president pro tem. He painted Nancy Cook, the Democratic ex-senator who used to co-chair the Joint Finance Committee.

Now there were a whole bunch of Democrats who also wanted their portraits in Legislative Hall, and guess what?

There was a ceremony Thursday afternoon in Legislative Hall to present the portraits of Spence, Gilligan, Adams and Cook to be on display ever after.

In keeping with the tone of this whole endeavor, it turned out to be fairly comic.

As a crowd was gathering about 10 minutes before the presentation was supposed to begin, word spread that the portraits were still at Buena Vista, the state conference center near New Castle, where they were being stored.

Somehow a van had gone to Buena Vista to pick up four easels and bring them to Legislative Hall, but the portraits? Forgotten.

This could not be regarded as entirely surprising. It was pretty much of a Mike Harkins show.

Harkins, who was in charge because he collected a lot of the contributions that paid for the portraits, is a Republican ex-secretary of state and constant man-about-town, except for that stretch of time his gaddings were interrupted by the feds. Whatever he does, it always seems to have a madcap way of falling apart before coming together, so this was nothing new.

The portraits finally arrived about an hour late to a great cheer. They were delivered by Desiree Williams, who took over the running of Buena Vista only last month and heroically drove the portraits to Dover herself in her own Mazda 6.

Tom Cook, the finance secretary who is Nancy Cook's son, was largely responsible for getting everything sorted out. He told Williams she was a modern Caesar Rodney.

Then he quipped to her, "If this was one or two weeks earlier, we would have put you up for sainthood, as well."

# # #

The Judicial Nominating Commission has served up a list of candidates for the second judgeship that has come open since Bill Chandler, the former chancellor, became the commission's chair, and something has become clear.

The fix is not in.

Judgeships are notorious for the intrigue that surrounds them and the way they so often seem "wired." In the last round, there was speculation for months that Leo Strine Jr. would be elevated from chancellor to chief justice, to be followed by Andy Bouchard stepping down as the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission to be appointed chancellor.

It happened, but not without a wrinkle.

Bouchard was regarded as such a shoo-in for chancellor that other people were not even applying, even though it was an opening for the state's most storied judgeship, the chief of the Court of Chancery, where corporate law is made.

Under Chandler, the Judicial Nominating Commission went recruiting and forced a tough choice on Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, by sending him the names of Bouchard and Dave McBride, both respected corporate law practitioners.

Now there is an opening on the Superior Court to replace Charles Toliver, who is retiring, and the confidential list from the commission to the governor is said to be flush with five candidates:

Kate Aaronson, the chief disciplinary counsel; Diane Coffey, a lawyer who was the chief prosecutor in New Castle County; Richard Forsten, a lawyer who is counsel to the Republican Party; Lisa Hatfield, a lawyer who is also the Newark alderman; and Ferris Wharton, a public defender and former prosecutor who was the Republican candidate for attorney general in 2006. 

All of the candidates are Republicans, because the constitution requires the courts to be politically balanced, and Toliver is giving up a Republican seat. Still, the governor and the Senate, which has to confirm the next judge, are Democratic, so it could get interesting.

Forsten and Wharton are indisputably card-carrying Republicans, and if it is too much, there are still the three others, who are much less so.