Posted: July 7, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Colin Bonini passed a milestone on the last day of the legislative session. It was not much mentioned, but there it was.

Bonini, a conservative Republican state senator who is running for governor, has now gone for 20 years without ever voting to pass a budget. He was elected from a Kent County district in 1994, and his streak of no-no-20-times-no stretches from 1995 to 2015.

When the budget came up for a vote in the state Senate, close to two o'clock in the morning on July 1, Bonini gave but a little speech, mindful of the hour.

"Please refer to my comments for the last 20 years," he said.

Bonini has his reasons for being a budget grouch, a point he made on the last legislative day by wearing a tie decorated with images of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. (The budget was brought to the new fiscal year by the number 3.9 billion.)

"Someone needs to remind people that this is other people's money," Bonini said Thursday in a short telephone interview, adding, "If you vote for the budget, you're endorsing the policies within it, and there are a lot of policies I don't."

Whatever, it raises an interesting question. If Bonini were to get elected governor, would he sign a budget bill into law?

"I am hoping we can find out what I'm going to do," Bonini quipped.

That was less Oscar the Grouch and more Donald the Duck.

Even Bonini knows he is roaming toward Fantasyland here, talking about becoming the governor. It does not have anything to do with his primary with Lacey Lafferty, a Tea Party Republican also running for governor, but it has everything to do with John Carney, who is regarded as the Democrats' most likely candidate.

Carney has already been elected five times statewide as congressman and lieutenant governor. Eventually, it gets to be a habit with the electorate.

"John's close to being one of those guys you're used to voting for," Bonini said.

It would mean Bonini's anti-budget streak could live on, because he is not up for re-election as a state senator until 2018. It also says something about the Republicans' plight in the state Senate, where they have not been the majority caucus since 1972.

Being in the minority means never having to vote for the budget.

# # #

The candidacies for the 2016 campaign season are slowly rounding into official shape, although not the one most waited for. That would be John Carney's.

He does not seem to be in a hurry to make a move for governor, and why should he?

Carney is sitting pretty. He is popular, coming off an election in which he led the ticket, and he had a respectable sum of nearly $600,000 in his campaign treasury at last count, which came at the end of the first quarter of the year.

Carney's delay, however, is any other Democratic congressional candidate's dilemma.  

Other Democrats potentially in the running for the congressional seat -- notably Bryan Townsend, who is a state senator, Bryon Short, who is a state representative, and Collin O'Mara, who is a past environmental secretary, now the National Wildlife Federation president -- are stuck waiting.

Not on the Republican side, though. Hans Reigle, a former Kent County Republican chair who used to the mayor of Wyoming, has filed his candidacy.

As for the governor's race, Bonini and Lafferty have formalized their campaigns for the Republican nomination, but there is nothing doing in the Democratic Party from either Carney or Tom Gordon, the New Castle County executive who is mentioned as a possible candidate but has only his old county campaign organization registered.

The Briens -- Bryan Townsend and Bryon Short -- still have legislative campaign accounts showing them each with $40,000-plus at the end of last year. If they run for the congressional seat, though, they would encounter some restrictions in converting state contributions to a federal race.

Carney, incidentally, would have the situation in reverse, going from a federal to a state campaign, but never fear.

It is unwise to underestimate the ingenuity of a politician when it comes to campaign contributions.