Posted: July 21, 2010
POLITICS OF THE ABSURD
By Celia Cohen
Before people forget, Joe Biden was on the ballot twice in 2008.
He was on the Democratic ticket for senator and for vice president, his senator-self outpolling his vice-president-self, and nobody protested. Not the Republicans. Certainly not the Democrats. Not the birthers, the Rosicrucians or the Slytherins.
Biden booked out of the Senate seat quicker than he could say "Air Force Two," and Delaware politics has not been the same since. It has been a little madcap, not that it has all been his fault.
There was a sudden rash of statewide incumbent officeholders who were never elected. There was a candidacy that tried to split itself like a Biden-mad amoeba. Not to mention the convoluted political odyssey of Beau Biden, the vice-presidential-son-the-attorney-general.
Since the last election, the state has needed an appointed senator and an appointed treasurer, and for a time, it also needed an acting attorney general while Beau Biden was in Iraq with the National Guard. That is one-third of statewide officialdom.
Timing was everything. Joe Biden left the Senate while Ruth Ann Minner was still the Democratic governor. Biden got to be replaced by Ted Kaufman, his political alter ego, and Minner got a neat seat at the inauguration.
Jack Markell, the incoming Democratic governor who is nobody's fool, did not give Minner a chance to fill the treasurer's office he was quitting. He resigned only after he took his oath as governor and had the power to make the choice himself, installing Velda Jones-Potter.
Delaware should consider itself lucky that Biden and Markell were the ones directing their replacements, now that Minner is being exposed as someone who might have traded the state for a handful of magic beans, given the chance. Brian Selander, the chief spinmeister for Markell, would be stuck trying to pass off that giant beanstalk outside Woodburn as the latest in green energy.
Then there is Beau Biden. He was supposed to be running for his father's old Senate seat against Mike Castle, the Republican congressman, in the mother of all election wars. Instead, Biden is running for re-election, although running may be too active a verb.
Biden is unopposed. This is almost unheard-of in Delaware history.
No statewide candidate has gone unchallenged here for at least 70 years, according to the election records immediately available. Probably not for 124 years. A political memoir by Daniel O. Hastings, a Republican senator from 1928 to 1937, mentions his party was in such sad shape in 1886, it did not bother even trying to field a ticket and all the Democrats were elected.
The Republicans say they are looking for someone for attorney general. Although the candidates filing deadline is past, the party has until Sept. 1 to fill openings.
"The election's in November. Obviously it's very difficult to get somebody to run against the son of the vice president of the United States. In this Obama economy, people are reluctant to leave gainful employment. We have quality candidates up and down the ballot and one hole to fill," said Tom Ross, the Republican state chair.
Do not be fooled. The Republicans want to find a candidate about as much as Brer Rabbit did not want to be thrown into the briar patch -- that is to say, not at all. The idea is to try to tamp down Democratic voters' interest in their ticket, along with Joe Biden's interest in campaigning at home and firing up his party.
Perhaps the strangest manifestation this campaign season was the Kent County legislative candidate who envisioned himself as some sort of transcendental political trinity, filing as a Democrat, a Republican and a Libertarian.
Delaware has had its share of "fusion" candidates, running on more than one ticket, but in each case, they filed with either the Democrats or the Republicans and had a minor party adopt them, too. This was different.
The Democrats and the Republicans were not amused. They thought this guy Will McVay was gaming the system. Talk about confusion. That would be the marriage of "con" and "fusion."
"Major parties have some rights, too," said John Daniello, the Democratic state chair.
Everybody went to court. The judge kicked McVay off the Democratic and Republican ballots but left him with the Libertarians, where he was actually registered.
"I'm mourning the victory. I was hoping we'd get to keep the money from his filing fee," said Ross, the Republican chair.
Nothing in politics goes better together than a wisecrack and crocodile tears.