Posted: July 13, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

So Brad Bennett had something up his sleeve, after all.

Oh, the sackcloth and ashes there were as Bennett, the Democratic representative with two drunken driving arrests, one for each of his terms, told the state House of Representatives in early June he would not run for re-election.

The wait lasted for more than a month, until he got around to withdrawing his candidacy on Monday, and all seemed calm, all seemed bright, but it was a false peace lasting only a day.

The long lag had fed suspicions that Bennett was looking for a placeholder candidate, and guess what? It happened.

Andria Bennett, his wife who works as a legislative aide in the state Senate, fired up a new tumult when she filed shortly before the deadline on Tuesday at noon for the 32nd Representative District in the Dover area. Suckers!

To be sure, there is plenty of room in politics for husband-and-wife combinations. Bill and Hillary Clinton. Bob and Elizabeth Dole. Back in the day, Delaware had Bill Conner, a Republican New Castle County executive, and Louise Conner, a Republican state senator, in office in the late 1960s.

But this? This looks more like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Let them eat cake.

The tabloid press has its Brangelina and the celebrity couple formerly known as TomKat. Who knew Delaware would be getting its very own Brandria?

This is not what the Democrats wanted. They did everything a party could do to right itself. They recruited Bill McGlumphy, just coming off 10 years on the Dover City Council, and they thought they had cleared the field for him by inducing two other candidates to withdraw and blocking any others who had some interest in running.

So much for that. The Republicans could capitalize, even though the district has a Democrat-friendly voter registration.

The Republicans have some intrigue on their side, too,  but nothing like the Democrats. They have Ellis Parrott, a retired Dover police officer who was also a magistrate, as a candidate, as well as Will McVay, who tried to file on three ballot lines in 2010 as a Republican, Democrat and Libertarian until a court ruling made him run as a Libertarian only.

It is a free country. Brandria can run if they want to.

The House itself is nothing but a bystander. It had convened the Ethics Committee to investigate Brad Bennett, but the committee decided to defer action when it appeared that Bennett essentially had expelled himself by declaring he would not run.

"I don't have any legitimate ethical control over her," said Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic majority leader who also chairs the Ethics Committee.

"In the political world, Andria has every right to run for that seat. However, personally, I don't think it's the right time for her to do that. I don't think it's good for Brad, I don't think it's good for the family, I don't think it's good for her, and I don't think it's good for the district. He has a desire to come back at some point in time. This is really not the way to do it."

Andria Bennett will not be deterred. "I'm not a placeholder. There are consequences to making this choice. I'm giving up my job for this. If I do win, I will seek re-election. I think I can do a really good job," she said.

What a delicate situation it is for the House Democratic caucus. Andria Bennett is not only the wife of Brad Bennett but the daughter of John Viola, a Democratic representative from a Glasgow-Christiana district, and people could be pushed to take sides.

"Andria's not going to get an endorsement from me. I gave my commitment to Bill McGlumphy, and I plan on honoring it," Schwartzkopf said.

Not that this is exactly the only time Brad Bennett has involved the legislature in a delicate family situation. Before his recent marriage to Andria Bennett, he had to extract himself from his earlier marriage to the daughter of Brian Bushweller, a Democratic senator from Dover.

Marriage and politics are a volatile cocktail. As Bill Conner once said of his own county executive/state senator marriage, "Bedfellows make very strange politicians."