Posted: July 30, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

When Jack A. Markell was running for re-election as the Democratic state treasurer in 2002, he rolled out lists of "Lawyers for Markell" and "Educators for Markell" and so on.

It is curious he never got around to "Eye Doctors for Markell." The one trait his supporters mention most is his vision.

For example, here is the way state Sen. David P. Sokola, a Pike Creek Valley Democrat, explaining his reasons for backing Markell instead of Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. for the 2008 Democratic nomination for governor -- "I've always liked both of them, but I think Jack brings a unique vision."

Vision is nothing without focus, as Markell himself knows, so he is preparing to deliver on the clarity.

There has been talk in Delaware Democratic circles that Markell is writing a book, but it is not so. What he is writing is a series of position papers offering his perspective on health care, education, economic development and other matters. Their release is expected in the fall.

"I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of Delaware and what we should be doing. We'll be letting people know where we stand on a variety of issues," Markell said.

As much as Markell is mentioned for his vision, he also has a way with the sidelong political glance, slyly challenging his rivals without really appearing to do so. He figuratively shot one of those looks at Carney and perhaps Alan B. Levin, a potential candidate for the Republicans, as he described the rationale behind his upcoming position papers.

"I'm sure anybody running for governor will do the same," Markell said, his vision leavened with a little wink.

# # #

The record holders for Delaware's most expensive campaign for the state Senate will be tangling again in 2008.

The record belongs to state Sen. John C. Still III, a Republican first elected in 1988, and Brian J. Bushweller, a Democrat who ran four years ago, for a Kent County district that is shaped something like a deformed butterfly and includes Dover, Little Creek and Camden-Wyoming.

Together they spent more than $250,000, dwarfing $200,000 races between Republican Sen. Liane M. Sorenson and Democrat Richard A. DiLiberto Jr. for a Newark-Hockessin seat in 2002, and between Democratic Sen. Dave Sokola and Republican Michael J. Ramone for a Pike Creek Valley seat in 2006.

Bushweller nearly beat Still in 2004, when Still's political stature was peaking as the Senate minority leader who was regarded as a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2008. Bushweller held Still to 51 percent of the vote.

Since then, circumstances have gone in Bushweller's direction. The Democratic advantage in registration has widened by another 700 votes, while Still's political standing has taken a downturn. He lost his leadership post to state Sen. Charles L. Copeland and faded out of the mix for governor.

A revival in the Kent County Democratic Party could benefit Bushweller, too, not that Still is conceding anything.

"We had great support last time, but incumbency was hard to overcome. This time we have better name recognition," Bushweller said.

"I think it will be a tough race. I'll make him work for it," Still said.

Still, 54, runs an insurance agency. Bushweller, 61, is retiring in September as the state director for U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a Democrat for whom Bushweller also served as the public safety secretary when Carper was the governor.

With such a fierce campaign anticipated, both candidates are getting an early start. Bushweller filed for the race last week, and Still has a fund-raiser scheduled in September.

Their rematch has all the makings for exceeding what the two spent last time -- or at least what they were required by law to report they spent.

"It doesn't include my extra business advertising, which is perfectly legal," Still said.