Posted: July 22, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is nothing like a closely fought race for a bit of a game of chicken, political style.

It was sounding like a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there in the Democratic congressional primary between two of the candidates this week, not that there is anything wrong with chicken.

Not in a state like Delaware, where people are known to say they are proud to be a Blue Hen, and not in politics, where feathers are routinely ruffled.

Lisa Blunt Rochester. Bryan Townsend. Game on.

Rochester and Townsend, along with Sean Barney, are the leading trio of candidates in the Democratic primary for the state's lone congressional seat, being vacated by John Carney so he can run as the Democratic candidate for governor.

With Primary Day now less than two months away on Sept. 13, it is only to be expected that the campaign would quicken, particularly because the winner will be heavily favored over Hans Reigle, the Republican congressional candidate, in this Democratic deep-blue state.

Rochester, a Cabinet secretary for both Tom Carper and Ruth Ann Minner when they were Democratic governors, has put together a campaign with "Do Different" as the heart of its message, because she would. In a state where every member of the federal delegation historically has been white and male, she is neither.

Townsend, a state senator, is running a Newark strategy, concentrating much of his campaign in the place where he grew up, went to college and now represents in the legislature.

So things got interesting when Rochester staged a campaign rally in Newark on Friday morning and Townsend sent out a press release in a pre-emptive strike two days ahead of it to say he has been endorsed by a "diverse coalition of women."

No way is Rochester chickening out and letting Townsend have the Newark vote.

No way is Townsend chickening out and letting Rochester have the women's vote.

Rochester's Newark rally brought about 100 people to the Embassy Suites, just about every single one of them a woman with the notable exception of Ted Blunt, Rochester's father who used to be the Democratic president of the Wilmington City Council.

It was a lively crowd, especially when it was told "selfie break!" and people got up from the tables where they ate a continental breakfast and ran around to take pictures with their smart phones, the better to post their support of the candidate.

Rochester herself had her best moment when she got a standing ovation for an "I-am-woman-hear-me-roar" declaration as she explained why she decided to run.

It came to her after she saw a father with three kids put back grapes in a grocery store because they were too expensive, and she thought that was not right, and she saw Wilmington crumbling and heard it called "Murder Town USA," and she thought that was not right, and she heard Donald Trump's rhetoric, and she knew that was not right, and she felt her strength rising.

"I didn't care what anybody thought, I didn't care what anybody said, I didn't ask for anybody's permission. So I stand before you, proud and poised to be your congresswoman," Rochester said and got herself cheered.

The rally also showcased the support Rochester has from Democratic women in the legislature, because there is probably no group Rochester and Townsend are competing harder for.

Rochester has been endorsed by Margaret Rose Henry, the majority whip, in the state Senate, and by Valerie Longhurst, the majority leader, as well as Andria Bennett, Stephanie T. Bolden, Deborah Heffernan and Kim Williams in the state House of Representatives.

Townsend in his pre-emptive press release noted his endorsements from Patti Blevins, the president pro tem, along with Karen Peterson and Nicole Poore in the state Senate and Melanie George Smith in the state House.

Townsend also made a point about his endorsement from Polly Seirer, because nothing says "Newark" and "women" like the woman who is the mayor of the city.

In another little side fight, Rochester's rally included remarks by Lucinda Guinn from EMILY's List, a national organization that has made Rochester one of the pro-choice Democratic women it supports for high office, so Townsend countered with another pre-emptive statement bemoaning "out-of-state funding and super PACs seeking to swing a Delaware race."

Get ready for more of the same. In a state where Sussex County is the birthplace of the broiler industry, in a congressional primary where Rochester and Townsend both went to the University of Delaware, the home of the Fightin' Blue Hens, nobody is chickening out.