Posted: June 9, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Claymont is getting its turn as the center of the political universe.

The last time this happened might have been more than a century ago, when a scoundrel named John Edward Charles O'Sullivan Addicks, better known as "Gas" Addicks because he made a fortune speculating in gas companies and his name was too long, anyway, moved there.

Gas Addicks spread a lot of money around to try to buy himself a seat in the U.S. Senate, back in the day when senators were elected by the legislature, not by the voters.

Addicks never won, but he controlled enough legislators whose motto was "Addicks or nobody" that there were times between 1895 and 1906 when the legislature was so deadlocked, Delaware had one senator or no senators.

Eventually Addicks went broke and went away.

Not that any of this was Claymont's fault. It was an accident of geography. Addicks was from Philadelphia and conceded he had lived in Claymont for two months before it dawned on him he was in Delaware and not Delaware County, Pennsylvania, across the state line.

This is a true story, recounted in greater detail in the History of Delaware by John Munroe and in Democracy in Delaware by Carol Hoffecker.

What is happening now in Claymont is mundane by comparison.

Claymont is a scrappy, salt-of-the-earth kind of place with industrial roots. It votes Democratic. It does not put on airs. It finds itself mattering in the 2016 election to the races for the governorship, the state's only congressional seat and the legislature.

Claymont is dear to the heart of John Carney, the Democratic congressman who is seriously favored to be the next governor. Carney grew up there and is fond of calling himself a "Claymonster."

Although Carney lives in Wilmington these days, it is like Paris in "Casablanca." Carney will always have Claymont, or is it Claymont that will always have Carney?

Claymont has also emerged as a battleground in the Democratic congressional primary.

It was expected to be a natural base for Bryon Short, the Democratic state representative whose district includes Claymont, but he dropped out of the congressional race to run for re-election.

That put Claymont in play in the Democratic congressional primary for what is essentially a three-way contest involving Sean Barney, who was the Democratic candidate for state treasurer in 2014, Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was a Cabinet secretary for two past Democratic governors, and Bryan Townsend, who is a Democratic state senator from the Newark area.

Townsend has been concentrating on securing his geographical base, but he is breaking out of Newark as of this weekend to open up a Brandywine field office, which will cover Claymont. Rochester lives down the road from Claymont in Bellefonte, although her family is associated more with Wilmington, where Ted Blunt, her father, used to be the City Council president.

When Short left the congressional field, it meant there would be ramifications further down the ballot for the legislature. Three Democratic candidates had already filed for what they thought would be an open race to replace him.

None of the other candidates budged immediately, but Joe Daigle, an analyst at J.P. Morgan/Chase, recently got out.

"I ran for state representative to serve my community and create a better future for all of Delaware's families. I didn't run to primary my friend Bryon Short, who has done a fine job," Daigle said.

That is not all of the legislative action. Harris McDowell, a Democratic state senator, is running for re-election in a district that stretches from Claymont into Wilmington.

The Republicans are trying to oust McDowell as part of their latest drive to take over the state Senate, something they have not done in 43 years. The politics are not exactly in the Republicans' favor -- the voter registration in the district is lopsidedly 58 percent Democratic -- so the idea is for a little generational lightning to strike.

The Republicans are going with James Spadola, a police officer who is a Millennial, against McDowell, who comes out of the Silent Generation at 76 and has been a state senator for 40 years, longer than anyone else in state history.

As if all of that is not enough, McDowell just picked up a Democratic primary challenge from Joe McCole, a retired National Guardsman who came from out of nowhere to run.

"Harris McDowell has been there for 40 years. Give somebody else a shot. I have the Trump factor going for me. I've never been elected to anything," McCole said.

This is the way it goes in this election season. As sure as Philadelphia Pike runs through Claymont, so does state politics.