Posted: July 17, 2004


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There was nothing subtle about Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's statewide tour Saturday, when the first-term Democrat declared her candidacy for re-election to the office that means the most in Delaware politics.

So no one would miss the issues on which Minner has staked her governorship, she went to Trap Pond State Park near Laurel to showcase the environment, to Star Hill Elementary School south of Dover to emphasize education, to the Cancer Care Connection in Newark to highlight health care, especially cancer prevention, and to the Wilmington riverfront to talk about jobs.

At Star Hill the un-subtlety escalated. The hallways there are decorated with words meant to make good little citizens out of the students, and Minner's campaign signs were taped next to them, begging for her to be associated with "reliable" and "respect" and "sincere" and "dependability."

It looked like something out of a campaign consultant's dream.

Not that there really is much subtle about politics. It is a field that depends on broad strokes like billboards and 30-second television spots to put a message across, and the result is about as unsubtle as anything could be.

The voters vote you in or vote you out.

In a 30-year political career, Minner only has been voted in. She started in 1974 as a state legislator from Milford, became lieutenant governor in 1992 and moved on to governor in 2000. This is her 11th campaign.

Minner began her run with the confidence of someone who knows the state does not discard its governors lightly. By winning, she would be the fourth in a row to serve the maximum two terms that the state constitution allows.

"I do not leave any job half done. That's why I am here today to declare my intention to serve another four years as Delaware's governor," she said.

Minner's all-but-certain Republican opponent is William Swain Lee, the Sussex County ex-judge who is expected to dispatch a little-known opponent in a primary Sept. 11 before moving on to the the election Nov. 2.

While Minner and Lee disagree on who should be governor, they disagree very little on what the governor should do. Lee also is emphasizing education, the environment and the economy, although what she regards as applause lines he regards as reasons for the hook, calling her a governor "without a vision for our future."

Lee does not emphasize health care, and that issue provided perhaps the most poignant stop of the governor's statewide tour. She was welcomed by about 40 people at the Cancer Connection, where she touched on her own tragedy, losing her husband to cancer in 1991, and received vigorous approval for pushing for the state's indoor smoking ban, implemented in late 2002.

William W. Bowser, the Delaware Cancer Consortium chairman whose 17-year-old son is a cancer survivor, linked Minner to Lance Armstrong, another cancer survivor pedaling his bicycle toward what could be a sixth victory in the grueling Tour de France.

The governor was on a "Tour de Ruth Ann," Bowser quipped, adding, "If there were a yellow jersey for fighting cancer, this woman would be wearing one."

This is Minner's last campaign. Unlike every other governor of the past 50 years, she leaves knowing that she will never stand for election again. Others either were voted out before they could make that decision or else went on to run for another office, senator, congressman or even president.

"This one's not going to do that. I'm happy in Delaware," Minner said.