Posted: Aug. 29, 2004


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The hottest party Sunday on the eve of the Republican national convention in New York City was the one hosted by the Republican Main Street Partnership, a centrist group, and one of the hottest questions there was, is U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle going to be a senator? 

This was a seamless transition from the Democratic national convention last month in Boston, where the buzz was whether U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was going to be a secretary of state and open up a Senate seat in Delaware. 

It would be bad form for Republicans to be speculating about the possibility of a Kerry administration with Biden in it, but it passed muster for them to muse about the future of a fellow Republican. 

Mike Castle already has been a governor and a congressman, running with only token opposition for a record-setting seventh term this year. A Senate seat would give him one of the state’s rarest and most distinguished political achievements – a triple crown of offices accomplished only by the likes of Democrat Thomas R. Carper and Republican J. Caleb Boggs. 

The party was peopled by a real Washington crowd. The question was a real Washington question, naturally discussed only off the record! No one wanted to be known to be talking about it. 

Delaware types only wanted to throw cold water on it. 

Castle himself could not duck it fast enough. Asked why anyone was wondering whether the Senate was in his future, he quipped, “Because they want to get rid of me.” 

Priscilla B. Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman for Delaware, squashed the chatter as hard as she could. “Castle would make an outstanding senator, but I would prefer he would get there in a general election rather than a special election. Unfortunately the opportunity for a special election won’t occur because George Bush will get four more years,” she said. 

Whatever happens in the future, the Main Street Partnership reception showed that Castle is a political player of consequence now. It was sort of his party. He is the president of the group, which drew more than 300 people to one of New York City’s exclusive locations – the Sky Club atop the MetLife Building, formerly the Pan Am Building, with a Park Avenue address. 

The National Journal, a publication that covers the Congress, called the gathering “today’s top party – or at least the highest off the ground.” 

It was a typical New York exclusive event – wall-to-wall people in a space with a spectacular view. 

The party was loaded with members of Congress, such as Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and New York Rep. Amo Houghton, who founded the group. Tommy Thompson, the Health & Human Services secretary, and Ann M. Veneman, the agricultural secretary, also were there, along with Rick Lazio, the ex-congressman who lost to U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John R. “Jock” McKernan Jr., a Maine ex-governor married to U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe. 

The gathering was virtually all cocktail party, no program. Castle barely took the microphone. “This may the first speech you’ll hear at the convention, and it may be the shortest,” he said. He introduced a singer and got off the stage. 

Of course, cocktail parties are where the Washington crowd gets its politicking done and where there has to be something to hum about – like the talk about Castle.

If a Senate vacancy occurred, the governor would fill it by appointment, followed by a special election in 2006. 

Someone even wanted to know whether Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a drop-dead Democrat, would consider appointing Castle if the Senate seat were open. It sure sounds like a silly question, but this is Delaware, after all, and sometimes things happen only in Delaware.