Posted: July 6, 2012
ODD MAN IN
By Celia Cohen
With one screaming exception, the trio of state representatives who decided late not to run for re-election have cleared their names from the ballot.
Bob Gilligan, the Democratic speaker? Gilligan told the House of Representatives on Saturday evening, hours before the 2012 session ended, he was leaving after 40 years, and by Monday morning he was an ex-candidate with the speed of a kid let out of detention.
Terry Schooley, the Democratic representative from Newark? She announced her decision to the other House members in early June and officially withdrew within two weeks.
Brad Bennett, the Democratic representative from Dover? Brad Bennett? Paging Brad Bennett?
This is odd. Bennett is still listed as a candidate, even though he is the only one with the obvious reason not to run. A second arrest within two years for drunken driving, this one involving a hit-and-run encounter with a parked police car, can do that.
Bennett, a two-term representative, had filed for re-election in February. He was arrested in April, secluded himself for treatment, and returned to the legislature on June 5 to apologize publicly and take himself out of the running.
Before Schooley bowed out. Before Gilligan did.
More than a month has passed since Bennett spoke. The calendar is bearing down upon the deadline for candidates to withdraw without forfeiting their filing fees on July 13, and he still has taken no action to leave the field and reclaim his fee of $872.
This, even though the House very clearly reminded Bennett he was supposed to be going by giving him the same commemorative silver plate that all the retiring representatives get. Under the circumstances, it was a gracious thing to do.
In case Bennett still did not get the message, the House Ethics Committee met during the last night of the legislature to review a complaint filed against him by Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic majority leader who chairs the committee.
The committee had a range of options it could recommend to the entire chamber -- from doing nothing to censuring Bennett to expelling him. It decided to defer action, because its jurisdiction only lasts until Election Day, when a new Delaware General Assembly is elected, and at least this way it could still police the situation.
"My take on this is, he apologized to the chamber, he apologized to the constituents of his district, and he said he was stepping down," Schwartzkopf said Saturday.
"We can't punish him anymore than what he has done to himself. He has in effect expelled himself for the next two years, which is more than we could do to him. We're still here if he backtracks on anything he said."
As Bennett has continued to drag out his departure, there have been rumblings he has been looking around for a friendly Democratic candidate, someone who would be willing to be elected as a placeholder and step aside for him when the seat is up again in two years. This looks like remorse with its fingers crossed.
Bennett could not be found to comment.
The race in the 32nd Representative District already has attracted four active candidates, two Democratic and two Republican, who came forward after Bennett's arrest, and the field is not necessarily set with the filing deadline still days away on Tuesday at noon.
The voter registration favors the Democrats, but before Bennett, the district was represented by Donna Stone, a Republican representative for 14 years.
The wait for Bennett goes on. "He's got to get off the ballot," Schwartzkopf said Thursday.
Paging Brad Bennett. The candidates' withdrawal form is prominently available on the Web page of the Kent County elections department, a mouse click away.