Posted: July 1, 2011
TOP 10 LEGISLATORS OF THE YEAR
By Celia Cohen
Through meritorious achievement or dubious distinction, there were legislators who did not go unnoticed in the 2011 session, which ended today in the early morning hours.
This is Delaware. No one in the General Assembly was going to set the nation agog.
Not legislatively like Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman whose budget proposal provoked an uproar about Medicare. Not scandalously like Anthony Weiner, the Democratic ex-congressman whose tweet gave a whole new meaning to "member" of Congress.
Still, in the state's own middling way, there were moments, and here is a Top 10 List of the people who made them.
10. Tony DeLuca. People should know who their governor is. Not so much who the Senate's president pro tem is. A legislative leader who makes himself a household name is almost always a legislative leader with troubles. DeLuca did it.
Because of a $50,000 doorway for his office and a persistent case of double dipping, not to mention a redistricting map that suspiciously tracked the "yea" and "nay" votes for pro tem, DeLuca's name spread like E. coli.
9. Mike Katz. Did any legislator fall faster this year than Katz? As the session opened, he was nearly a hero for almost toppling DeLuca, a fellow Democratic senator, as the pro tem. As the session ended, he was nearly a pariah for crying "plagiarism" and demanding an ethics investigation into Bryon Short, a Democratic representative, after they each sponsored a similar bill.
Laws are written in Dover, not literature. Since when did the state code start including notations like, this provision authored by Senator Katz?
8. Colin Bonini. As a matter of fact, there was a legislator who fell faster than Katz. It was Bonini.
He was the talk of the Republicans after he came close to being elected state treasurer, despite a very bad election year here for his party. Then he offered up the 11th vote to keep DeLuca as pro tem and deny his caucus mates a semblance of power sharing. It took Bonini barely a month for the Republicans to go from toasting him to treating him like Colin who?
7. Nancy Cook. If it is June 30, the legislative witching hour, Cook is in the building, Democratic senator or ex-senator. Cook is like the Old South. Defeat, hell!
6. Dick Cathcart. The Republican ex-representative, a former minority leader, finessed his way from the public payroll at Delaware State University to the public payroll at Delaware City with an assist from his friendly Republican state auditor. Cathcart does not even need to still be in the General Assembly to give legislators a black eye. This is talent.
5. Melanie George. So much for her reputation for trying to do everything everywhere every time. George, a Democratic representative, shredded it. She came into her own with a steady performance in an elongated House debate to win passage of the civil union bill.
4. Greg Lavelle. He earned respect as the voice of the loyal opposition in his first year as the House's Republican minority leader. Of course, it helped a lot that he was just not Dick Cathcart.
3. Bob Gilligan. A born teacher, the Democratic speaker ran the chamber like a headmaster, and the House of Representatives had a very good year.
Tied at 1. Dave Sokola and Liane Sorenson. They are not only tied by the Top 10 List, they are tied by district. Sokola, a Democratic senator, and Sorenson, the Senate's Republican minority whip, were squeezed into one district by redistricting.
This was not really a surprise, not after Sokola got himself to Dover five days after hip surgery to vote against DeLuca for pro tem, not after Sorenson stepped forward as the only Republican senator to vote for civil unions.
In the Senate, courage and decency are cause for imposing punitive damages.