Posted: July 22, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

"Political Notebook" is a collection of noteworthy political items around Delaware. This one gauges the end-of-session mood in Legislative Hall in Dover and spots a Republican candidate making moves for the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Republicans were acting like the most happy-go-lucky people around the place, as the Delaware General Assembly closed out its session with dawn approaching on July 1 in Legislative Hall in Dover.

This was something more than the standard sleep-deprived and punch-drunk side effects that go with an all-nighter.

This was the lightheartedness of a caucus that could see itself crawling out of the minority after nearly 40 years as the most irrelevant element of state government. All right, maybe not as irrelevant as the state treasurer, but it is a close call.

The Republicans are down 14-7, but they can realistically be competitive in enough districts over the next several elections, particularly in the conservative reaches of Sussex County, to get to the magic number of 11 senators for a majority.

So they were silly. It grew out of their back row. Literally grew, because the back row is the place where Joe Booth, Colin Bonini and Dave Lawson sit, all three of them bristling with growths of mustaches and goatees.

Booth, Bonini and Lawson, by the way, are collectively known as the "Row of No" -- a solid rank of conservatives whose support for matters before the Senate sometimes does not extend beyond the public prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.

Gary Simpson, observing the "Row of No" from his front-row seat as the Senate's Republican minority leader, figured he would grow a mustache and a goatee, too. 

Simpson made it every Republican with a mustache and a goatee, except for the women, so nothing else would do but to turn the whole lot of them into a merry band of pranksters. During a break in the Senate action, Liane Sorenson, Dori Connor and Cathy Cloutier pasted on mustaches and goatees of black felt.

"I was trying to keep up with the guys on the back row, and I guess the women were trying to keep up with them, as well," Simpson said.

Clearly there is nothing quite as inspiring in Legislative Hall as the lure of the majority. It was also on display that same night in the House of Representatives on the other side of the building.

The House was saying its farewell to Erik Schramm. A tireless, crackerjack political operative, Schramm is resigning from his dual posts as chief of staff for the House Democratic majority and the chair of the New Castle County Democratic Party.

Schramm also was the 2006 campaign manager for Jack Markell in his third election for treasurer, the last one before he was elected the Democratic governor, and a policy advisor and campaign coordinator for Ruth Ann Minner, the previous Democratic governor.

Schramm is fielding job offers outside politics, because frankly, he needs the break. "Whenever I take on any projects, I put every ounce of myself into it," he said.

As the House said good-bye, representative after representative praised Schramm, but none more than Bob Gilligan, the speaker who brought him in as the chief aide in 2007. At the time, the Democrats had been in the minority for 20-plus years, but they were convinced, as the Senate Republicans are now, that they could put together a drive to the majority.

"You made me speaker," Gilligan said. That said it all.

# # #

The usual way to tell if someone is serious about running for office is to follow the money.

When Kevin Wade says he is "leaning very heavily" toward a race as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 2012, the money backs him up.

Wade, a 59-year-old systems engineer from old New Castle, was last in the political mix in 2010 as a footnote of a congressional candidate, swamped early on by the more potent campaigns of Glen Urquhart and Michele Rollins, and never made it to the primary. Urquhart won the Republican nomination but fell easily to John Carney, the Democrat elected to the House of Representatives.

Wade was in long enough, however, to loan his campaign more than $60,000. He recently notified the Federal Election Commission he plans to forgive the debt and close out the campaign.

That way he can start with a clean slate for 2012. He said he did it so there was no confusion that any contributions he took in would go toward the Senate race, not toward paying himself back.

It certainly is a sign that Wade is serious about running. Too bad that Tom Carper, the Democratic senator up for re-election, already has bankrolled more than $1.5 million. That says Carper is serious about winning.