Posted: July 26, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Tom Carper was attending an event Monday at Rodney Square in Wilmington. Nothing unusual about that. Carper, the Democratic senator who has spent 34 years in public office, is a compulsive politician. He goes to everything.

It did not become unusual until Carper acknowledged someone standing in the small crowd. Great Caesar Rodney, it was Tom Evans.

"Great to see Tom Evans, our congressman I was privileged to succeed in the U.S. House of Representatives," Carper said.

Rarely has a single sentence glossed over so much history. It would be like Fletcher Christian remarking that he sailed on the Bounty with Captain Bligh.

Way back in 1982, Carper and Evans were opponents in a congressional race so ugly that no less an authority than the New York Post, a tabloid bottom-feeder if ever there was one, fingered it as "the nation's dirtiest campaign."

Evans at the time was a third-term Republican congressman on his way up, a friend to President Reagan and an accomplished negotiator known most notably for his collaboration with Mo Udall, a Democratic congressman from Arizona, on preserving the Alaskan wilderness. Carper was the state treasurer with expectations.

This is a race that should stay buried with a stake through its rotted heart. Suffice it to say the candidates' marriages were dragged into the campaign, Evans accused of straying from his own with a lobbyist, Carper accused of striking his wife. Carper won the election.

It was a long time ago, nearly 30 years, and this is a country of second chances. Evans' marriage righted itself and lasts to this day. Carper has been in a second marriage for 25 years. Neither flinched from the public arena, Evans as a lobbyist and environmentalist, Carper as a treasurer, congressman, governor and senator.

"Tom and I are friends," Evans said.

Their political animosity receded gradually over the years, aided in part Evans believes by their mutual friendship with Russell Peterson, the late governor who was a Republican-turned-Democrat and a prominent environmentalist.

These days Carper and Evans find themselves united in wanting to see a compromise forged over the debt ceiling. If they can forgive and forget, it really should not be a problem anywhere.

"In my business, in order to get on TV, you practically have to be screaming at each other. It's pretty sad. Here in Delaware, we still know how to be respectful of one another," Carper said.

But yes, respectful. Not counting that old congressional race, of course, and not counting Christine O'Donnell, She Who Must Not Be Named. A little political amnesia goes a long way in upholding the state's tradition of civility.

The reason Carper and Evans were both in Rodney Square on Monday was their joint support for Content Delaware -- "the first click in the first state" -- a new Web-based public affairs and information site at that is as original an alliance as they are.

It was formed by Teleduction, the production company based on the video wizardry of Sharon Baker, along with Serviam Media, its sister non-profit, and WDEL 1150 AM, the Delmarva Broadcasting radio station that is supplying daily news stories to the site.

"Content Delaware is about community building through story telling," Baker said.

A news outlet rooted exclusively in Delaware cannot hurt, certainly not from the perspective of Jim Baker, the Democratic mayor and no relation to Sharon Baker. He was at Rodney Square, too.

"I just like media to be fair and honest and tell the truth, because when I call a person an idiot, I don't expect an expose on why I did it and what did that mean. He's an idiot! That's all," Jim Baker said.

Back to politics, Carper is preparing to run for re-election in 2012. One of his campaign contributors? Evans. Last month Evans sent Carper a modest check for $250 and got a beautiful letter in return. It is hard to think of a clearer way to let bygones be bygones.

"Only in Delaware," Carper said.