Posted: July 26, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Delaware is not used to sending a rookie to the United States House of Representatives.

John Carney? A Democratic lieutenant governor before he got there. Mike Castle? A Republican governor and a lieutenant governor. Tom Carper? A Democratic state treasurer.

In a state that only gets to have one congressperson at a time, it has been nice to be able to elect someone with a little experience, but never mind.

That streak is history, now that Carney is running for governor to replace Jack Markell, the current Democratic governor who is on his constitutional way out, and Markell decided he did not want to do the Castle thing.

As Donald Rumsfeld might have said, if he was asked about the congressional race here, you go into the election with the candidates you have, not the candidates you might want or wish to have.

It means it is rookie tryout time, and no, nobody yet is being called "The Natural."

It is getting into crunch time especially for Sean Barney, Lisa Blunt Rochester and Bryan Townsend, the leading Democratic candidates, because Primary Day is exactly seven weeks away on Sept. 13, and it is more than likely to be decisive in a state as Democratic as Delaware when the winner goes up against Hans Reigle, the Republican congressional candidate, on Election Day, Nov. 8.

With all eyes on Democratic politics this week with the national convention up the road in Philadelphia, Townsend stepped out first thing Monday with a town hall in the evening, but he did not necessarily step out alone.

Rochester, a Cabinet officer for two governors, chose this week to go statewide with her first advertising buy on broadcast and cable television. This makes sense, considering Democratic voters can be expected to be watching because of their interest in the convention.

Rochester's political spot is about women's health care and Planned Parenthood -- which is logical because she is endorsed by EMILY's List, a national organization that backs pro-choice Democratic women running for high office.

Barney, the Democrats' candidate for state treasurer in 2014, rolled out a schedule of neighborhood meetings with the first round set for August in Wilmington, Newark and Long Neck.

Meanwhile, Townsend was in the thick of it with a series of town halls he is taking on the road over the next month. His first one Monday was in his comfort zone in the Newark area district he represents in the state Senate, and John Viola, Earl Jaques and Ed Osienski, a trio of Democratic state representatives, were there in the crowd of about 35 people to make it more familiar still.

Townsend's topic was the middle class. He had the five-page position paper. He had the meeting in the United Auto Workers hall. He had the personal anecdote about the minimum wage he made as he worked himself up from the son of a police officer and a teacher to the corporate lawyer he is today, although he is currently on leave to campaign.

"I worked in the Newark Dairy Queen for years, when I was in high school. I probably served some of you. If you have any recollection of pulling up to the window at the drive-through and getting a weather report over the speaker? That was me," he quipped.

Much more seriously, Townsend talked about the fraying of the middle class, which as he saw it never expected the American Dream to be about going from rags to riches but getting a chance.

Someone at the town hall wondered how Townsend expected to accomplish anything -- "[with] the politics so spiteful and hateful, you have to be Christ coming from the cross?"

That was some standard. Townsend said it would be a long fight but his plan was to try to find reasonable Republicans to work with.

"So I'm not Christ off the cross," he said.

Nah. Just a rookie, trying out.