Posted: July 20, 2004


Peterson won't go

State Sen. Karen E. Peterson is going to sit out the governor's race, after all, sparing the Democratic Party from a primary that its leaders saw as distracting and potentially harmful to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's re-election campaign.

As the July 30 filing deadline for candidates came closer and closer, the speculation increased in political circles that Peterson would not make the run, so there was not much surprise as word spread about her decision.

"She's taken the smart, high road in this case," said Richard H. Bayard, the Democratic state chairman. "I would have hated for there to be such a wasteful fight."

With Peterson on the sidelines, the governor's race has taken another step toward what it was expected to be all along, an election between Minner and retired Judge William Swain Lee, the endorsed Republican candidate who still has a little-known primary opponent to deal with.

Peterson, a first-term legislator from Stanton, went public last fall with the possibility that she would like to run, taking on the governor who had sent her packing from her director's job in the state Labor Department and then backed Peterson's primary opponent in her 2002 Senate race.

Despite the obvious political prickliness between the two, Peterson said her candidacy would not have been about Minner, but about improving the state.

"There were people who wanted me to run just to put some dents in Ruth Ann, so Bill Lee could come in behind," Peterson said. "I was not getting in the race just to make Ruth Ann's life miserable."

Regardless of what Peterson thinks of Minner, she is not carrying it further. Peterson showed up Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington when Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. declared his candidacy. While Delaware elects its governor and lieutenant governor separately, Carney was Minner's choice for the office.

What ultimately persuaded Peterson to stay out was a lack of time. Because of the ill health of her parents, she kept putting off the decision, until the calendar closed in. Otherwise, she believed she had enough support and financing for a campaign.

"What I didn't have, when all was said and done, was the time," Peterson said.

There is little doubt Peterson had potential as a spoiler. She emerged as a champion of the smokers who resent the indoor smoking ban that Minner signed into law, she was instrumental in the buyout for the Glenville residents who were flooded out, and she has friends in the labor movement and friends who remember her as the New Castle County Council president in the 1980s.

Incumbent governors here almost never have primaries. The last one who did was Gov. Russell W. Peterson, a Republican who more recently became a Democrat. He fended off a Republican challenger in 1972 but lost the governorship in the general election.

Karen Peterson and Russell Peterson are not related -- except by the political perception from the parties that they are better off without a Peterson in a primary for governor.

Freebery is lawfully not a lawyer

Sherry L. Freebery, who picked up a law degree on her way to becoming New Castle County's chief administrative officer, has finessed a disciplinary rule that provides for the Delaware Supreme Court to suspend lawyers indicted on felony charges.

Freebery essentially has suspended herself, instead.

In an order released Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it would postpone consideration of disciplinary action against Freebery until the outcome of the federal corruption case against her.

In exchange, Freebery, who has never practiced law since being admitted to the Delaware bar in 1995, agreed she will continue not practicing law until the criminal charges are resolved. In addition to running the county's operations, Freebery also is running as a Democrat for county executive, and she has called the case brought by U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly, a Republican appointee, politically motivated.

"The Supreme Court made a very just decision," Freebery said.

Chief Disciplinary Counsel Andrea L. Rocanelli, who prosecutes lawyers' misconduct, said in a press release that the Supreme Court held off on a suspension because "Freebery does not pose a significant threat of substantial harm to the public or to the orderly administration of justice."

Even if the court was talking about Freebery's dormant lawyering, she just became the first candidate ever to be legally certified as not threatening substantial harm to the public.

What a reversal in fortune.