Posted: June 6, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

State Treasurer Jack A. Markell made a round of telephone calls to leading Democrats on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning to tell them he will be running for governor, a message long expected but dreaded in party circles because it points headlong toward a bruising primary clash with Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. for the most coveted elected office in Delaware.

Markell followed up the courtesy calls by going public with a rollout of his campaign Wednesday evening through an online announcement at his new Web site.

In a Webcast lasting about four minutes, Markell laid out his definition of leadership in an allusion to the gathering battle with Carney to become the first of their generation of Democratic politicians to lay claim to the governorship.

"Leadership must be earned by each generation, and it's the strength of our Democratic Party that we encourage this kind of debate. It sharpens our ideas, and it strengthens our resolve," he said.

"We need to raise our expectations. We need to demand more of ourselves. We can and we must do better. The issue in this campaign is whether we are going to continue along the path that we've been following or whether we're going to take bold steps toward a stronger, healthier Delaware."

Markell all but telegraphed his intentions Saturday when he appeared before hundreds of supporters in Milton at a fund-raiser, decorated with generic "I Back Jack" signs, and told the crowd he would have an announcement in the next few days. It began with his series of telephone calls.

"I've been on his call list," said state Sen. Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Bridgeville Democrat who is the Senate's president pro tem. "It wasn't a surprise. How it will all wash out, I don't know."

Carney also received one of Markell's telephone calls. "He said he was filing his papers [of candidacy] tomorrow. Obviously I'm disappointed. It's much better that we work together as a team. We're going to be forced to spend a lot of time and resources running against each other when we could be focused on the Republicans," Carney said.

"At the end of the day, the people decide, and they usually get it right."

Democratic leaders had hoped this collision between Markell and Carney, both regarded by the party as talented and tested, would be avoided because of concern that it could split their ranks and provide an opening for the Republicans to reverse what has been solid Democratic control of the governorship since 1992.

The Republicans have not settled on a candidate for governor yet, but Alan B. Levin, who recently sold the Happy Harry's drug store chain, is considering a bid with the urging of the party leadership.

Carney has been up front about his intentions to run for governor, but Markell held back from saying anything definitive until now. Even though Markell's interest was well-known, his reticence preserved the fiction that a primary would not occur.

As recently as last month, U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a former Democratic governor himself, tried to orchestrate a deal that would have Carney running for governor and Markell for lieutenant governor. When it fell through, party leaders could do little but brace for the inevitable, although they continue to hope something can be worked out.

"It's a race a lot of people anticipated would happen, but I'm convinced that when it's all said and done, there still could be a unified Jack and John ticket," said Rhett D. Ruggerio, the Democratic national committeeman.

Markell begins with an advantage in his treasury. Carney ended 2006 with about $529,000 available, while Markell had $1.3 million, about half of it a loan from himself, according to financial disclosure reports.

As the campaign unfolds, Carney is expected to focus on his experience as a two-term lieutenant governor and previously as a Cabinet secretary inside Legislative Hall, where Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and a significant contingent of the Democratic legislators already have said they will back him.

Markell, a three-term treasurer, is a former telecommunications executive whose campaign strategy is expected to circumvent party insiders for a broader appeal. He was assumed to be testing out the theme of his candidacy Saturday when he told his supporters, "We know Delaware can do better."