Posted: July 19, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is one essential a party must have to win an election. It is called a "candidate."

Apparently this is a foreign concept to the Delaware Republicans. They have so many holes on their legislative ballot, they have all but put the General Assembly out of reach for themselves.

The Republicans started this election season by claiming the state is being forced to live under the tyranny of a one-party system, and it looks like they mean to make their claim stick, even if they have to do it themselves.

Check out the House of Representatives, where all 41 seats are up for election. The Republicans have failed to field candidates in 19 districts, putting the Democrats within two seats of the magic number of 21 for the majority before a vote is cast.

It is more of the same in the Senate, where all 21 seats are up for election because of redistricting. Republican candidates are nowhere to be found in eight districts, leaving the Democrats three seats shy of the magic number of 11 for the majority.

This does not look like a master plan for dislodging the Democrats, who currently hold the majority in both chambers by 26-15 in the House and 14-7 in the Senate. The Democrats have controlled the House since 2008 and the Senate since 1973 when two treacherous Republicans aligned themselves with the Democrats.

Not that the Republicans did not try to find candidates. They did. They just found themselves thwarted by the toxic fallout from the 2010 election, and they never saw it coming.

"A lot of Republicans are hesitant to run because of what we're calling the 'C-O-D effect' -- Christine O'Donnell. They fear something will happen and they will lose votes, not based on the merits. She has just terrorized us," said Debbie Hudson, a Republican representative involved in recruiting.

Politics has its coattail effect. Who knew it had its broomstick effect, too?

The Democrats naturally are not without holes in their own legislative ballot. Almost all of them are downstate, home to the more conservative voters who actually liked Christine O'Donnell.

The Democrats, however, are trying to hold their majority, not build one. Besides, their level of legislative vacancies is not unusually high, the way the Republicans' is. The 2012 vacancies would tend to be inflated, anyway, because all the Senate seats are up, instead of the customary 10 or 11, but still. There sure does seem to be something to this "C-O-D effect."

Party 2012 2010 2008
Republicans Total vacancies: 27

House: 19

Senate: 8

Total vacancies: 10

House: 7

Senate: 3

Total vacancies: 13

House: 9

Senate: 4

Democrats Total vacancies: 11

House: 7

Senate: 4

Total vacancies: 8

House: 6

Senate: 2

Total vacancies: 4

House: 4

Senate: 0

No wonder the Democrats are satisfied with their own recruitment efforts.

"I want to commend and thank the district committees that worked all spring to endorse and recommend candidates. They went out and found candidates against Republicans," said John Daniello, the Democratic state chair.

The parties have until Sept. 4 to fill openings on their ballots, but even if they do, they have given the candidates already in the running what is almost certainly too much of a head start.

House of Representatives

Not only have the Democrats been spotted 19 seats, they also have five more incumbents running in contested races they should be expected to win and keep their party in charge of the chamber.

Like a Republican is going to take out Mike Mulrooney, a Democratic representative with 14 years in the House and a New Castle district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 3-1?

The Republicans went into the election year optimistic they could cut into the Democratic majority, but they are left to lament two lost opportunities in particular.

One is the 4th Representative District, which used to be centered in Wilmington but was pulled way west toward Hockessin by redistricting. The Republicans did not put up a candidate against Gerald Brady, a Democratic representative who is a city resident, now running in a swath of unfamiliar territory where the voters have had Hudson as their representative.

"A really good Republican candidate could earn their trust," Hudson said.

The other is the 23rd Representative District, an open seat in Newark where Terry Schooley, the Democratic representative, is retiring. The Democrats are having a spirited, three-way primary without a Republican in sight.

"We'll never have an open seat like that again," Hudson said.


The Republicans really thought redistricting and the right retirements conceivably could let them overtake the Democrats for the majority, but it did not materialize.

The Republicans do have a couple of chances to pick up seats -- in a new district in Sussex County and a Greenville-Brandywine Hundred district where Greg Lavelle, the House Republican minority leader, is running against Mike Katz, the Democratic senator -- but they also have to defend Dori Connor, a Republican senator from New Castle in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

It is just as possible for the Republicans to lose a seat or two.

"Those talking heads who were talking last year about the success the Republicans were going to have against our candidates need to rethink what they said. They don't seem to be very good with their crystal balls," said Daniello, the Democratic state chair.

The future can get cloudy in a hurry for a Republican Party unable to conjure up candidates and cast under the spell of the broomstick effect.