Posted: June 4, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

When all else fails for the Republicans here, and it pretty much has, they always have the Family.

Whether it was T. Coleman du Pont, the senator and road builder who paved U.S. 13 a century ago, or Pete du Pont, the governor from the Republican glory days of a generation ago, Delaware's most famous family has supplied leaders and financiers to the party beyond living memory.

Once again, it is time for a good du Pont to come to the aid of his party.

John Sigler, re-elected only a little more than a month ago as the Republican state chair, abruptly quit last week because of job-related complications. It was just what the Republicans did not need, not with their struggle to come back from the blight of having but a single minor statewide official, the auditor, and sitting in the minority in the General Assembly.

Sigler was the guy the Republicans thought had the stuff to make them respectable again. He was a retired Dover Police captain, a lawyer and a past president of the National Rifle Association. He was a rare find in that he had the background and the conservative credentials to hold together the suspicious truce between the Republican regulars and the tea partiers.

As several Republicans tell it, Sigler arrived at the state party's headquarters in Wilmington last Wednesday morning, just before a finance committee meeting, and turned in a resignation letter, effective immediately.

Whatever the political equivalent is for an all-points bulletin, SOS signals and 911 emergency call all rolled into one, the stricken party was doing it in a scramble for a new chair.

It turns out all they had to do was look in the usual place.

"I have decided to run for that seat," Charlie Copeland said.

Copeland is a du Pont. A fit-looking and sunny 50-year-old from Chateau Country, he is a former state Senate minority leader who left the legislature after six years to run for lieutenant governor in 2008. He also owns a printing company, maybe not something as essential to politics as it used to be, but it cannot hurt.

Perhaps most important of all, Copeland is likely to be acceptable to the gamut of Republicans.

It goes without saying that nothing says "establishment" in Delaware like "du Pont," but Copeland has a soft spot for the tea party. When Christine O'Donnell and the tea partiers upended Mike Castle and the regulars in the 2010 Senate primary, Copeland functioned afterwards as the bridge between the party's hierarchy and O'Donnell's campaign.

The Republicans have not set a date for a convention to elect a new chair, although it is expected to occur on July 20. For now, Copeland has no opposition, but there is plenty of time for political mischief between now and then.

Copeland could probably be called an optimistic realist. He is convinced that a party committed to limited government, job creation and school choice can benefit Delaware and deserves a second look from the voters, even as he understands that the party has fallen on hard times.

"I'm under no illusions that come 2014, we're going to be a machine," Copeland said.

This is not the first time Copeland has thought about party leadership. He gave some consideration to mounting a challenge for national committeeman in 2012 against Laird Stabler, a lawyer/lobbyist who is also a du Pont -- their great-grandmothers were sisters -- but backed off.

Stabler is nothing if not a gentleman. "I certainly think Charlie is a very strong candidate for chair, and I haven't heard of anyone else. I have called him to say I am delighted and excited and looking forward to working with him," Stabler said.

With Copeland and Stabler, the Republicans would be doubling down on their du Ponts. The party certainly has to do something before it slides any further.

From April to June, the Democrats gained about another 1,000 voters over the Republicans, so currently there are nearly 122,000 more Democrats than Republicans . . . and counting.