Posted: June 29, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Only in Delaware would the AFL-CIO president, who is a diehard Democrat, and the Chamber of Commerce chairman, who could be the Republican candidate for governor, get together and decide to throw a giant fund-raiser to help Joe Biden run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If you live here, you get it.

Samuel E. Lathem, the Democratic labor leader, and Alan B. Levin, the Republican chamber chief who ran the Happy Harry's drugstores, are talking about getting Delaware to open its checkbooks for Biden, because favorite son means favorite son and because nothing tickles this tiny state more than people coming together who never would if they lived anywhere else.

The two are thinking huge -- like holding the fund-raiser at Frawley Stadium, the Wilmington baseball park with seating for 6,500 people. They can turn the sky boxes over to business types who can write checks with zeroes on them and fill up the stands more affordably for everyone else.

Lathem is so deep into Democratic politics that he chaired the last Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the party's biggest money event of the year. Levin is exploring a run for governor as the top choice of Republican Party leaders -- which could put him on the ballot on the opposite side of Biden, who can run for re-election in 2008 whether or not he is on the national ticket.

This is not really about partisan politics, however. This is about the state's interconnection with Biden, who has served in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Delawarean, who has national standing as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had made the state a part of the country's selection of its next president.

"Alan and I met about a month ago, and I suggested we do a fund-raiser for Sen. Joe Biden. When he got off the floor, he said, that's really a good idea," Lathem said. "It's about looking out for Joe. There is nowhere else this could happen."

"When Delawareans need help, we always help. Joe has been a friend to business. This isn't a question that I'm voting for Joe," Levin said. "Delaware transcends politics."

It is not bad politics for Levin, though. With the registration the way it is, no one gets to be governor without being nice to Democrats.

The planning is in the early stages. There is no date yet for the fund-raiser, although it probably would be scheduled sometime after Labor Day. It would not be sponsored by either the AFL-CIO or the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, although it would draw from both organizations.

Biden can use the money -- he is collecting a fraction of what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are hauling in -- but this event means more than a fund-raiser.

"This is wonderful. I can't think of a time when people are spontaneously saying, we want to have a fund-raiser. It is remarkable. It is bipartisan. It's very, very unusual," said Edward E. "Ted" Kaufman, who is a senior adviser to Biden and goes back with him to the first Senate campaign in 1972.

"It is so Delaware."