Posted: June 21, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are two Democrats who are going to cause a lot of problems for Lt. Gov. John Carney in his campaign for governor.

One is Treasurer Jack Markell, his rival for the Democratic nomination. The other is Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, whose blemished tenure has the Republicans joking they intend to invoke the Minner-Carney administration so often that voters will think "Minner" is Carney's first name.

On the day Carney made his candidacy official with the customary swing through Delaware's three counties, it would seem the best Markell and Minner could expect would be the silent treatment.

The worst might have had them searching for pins and a voodoo doll.

This is an unkind political age of Swift Boating and turn coating, and Delaware is braced for it knows not what in the gubernatorial primary, an unprecedented and volatile showdown between two tested contenders going for the most prestigious office in the state and readying to spend millions.

It was something of a shock that Carney chose to begin his campaign Saturday by lowering the political temperature, as he became the first of the three major candidates to take the step of declaring for governor, with Markell and Republican Bill Lee to follow.

There was hardly a discouraging word heard about Markell or Minner, and the skies were not cloudy all day, as Carney roamed northward from Gumboro to Georgetown to Dover and concluded in front of about 200 people in Wilmington.

Markell's candidacy was handled adroitly by Sam Lathem, the state AFL-CIO president, as he introduced Carney at the last stop.

"There are those out there who still  haven't made up their mind who they're going to support. We have two nice guys that everybody loves. Some don't want to make a choice, but I'm not one of them," Lathem said.

"You may like the guy he's running against, but don't forget, we've got to get John elected -- so we're going to kick that guy's behind."

Carney himself dealt with Minner. He did not deliver a Declaration of Independence, like the Colonies defiantly sloughing off old Mother England. On this June day, he sounded more like someone graduating and leaving home.

"My opponents -- plural -- want to make this race about Gov. Minner. They do. This race is not about Gov. Minner," Carney said.

"I have great respect for her and what she's done in over 30 years of public service for the people of our state . . . most importantly as the first female governor of the state of Delaware. That doesn't mean we agree about everything. . . .

"When I am governor, I will bring my vision and my energy to set a new course for our state."

For the most part, Carney grounded his speech by talking about his boyhood in Claymont -- "We're Clay-monsters!" -- and life inside a family with two teachers for parents and their nine children. It turned out to be just the preparation Carney discovered he needed to jostle himself apart from Markell and Minner.

"We did have a small house with one bathroom," Carney said. "We learned to share. We also learned to compete."