Posted: Aug. 15, 2006


Win the war, lose the battle 

With problems piling up, the Delaware Republicans are getting creative. They are trying to use one dilemma to handle another.

The Republicans need someone to run against state Treasurer Jack A. Markell, a popular two-term Democrat who has gubernatorial potential and a campaign treasury to prove it.

They also need to expand their reach for candidates. It is the other party that elected a woman as governor. It is the other party that elected African-Americans as mayor of Wilmington.

It is their party, however, that has Esthelda R. "Estelle" Parker-Selby. If they can talk her into running against Markell, as they are trying to do, they can solve one problem and put a dent in another.

Parker-Selby is a retired educator from Milton with political and community credentials. She is a member of the Cape Henlopen school board and the Beebe Medical Center board, and she ran for the legislature in 2002 against state Sen. Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Democratic president pro tem. She is also that elusive political figure her party yearns to have more of -- an African-American Republican.

Parker-Selby has not decided to run, but she is thinking seriously enough about it that William Swain Lee, the ex-judge who chairs the Sussex County Republicans, brought up her name Monday evening at a party meeting and predicted she would run if she could get the financial backing for it.

"She's committed to the campaign if there are enough people committed to her," Lee said. "We're certainly thrilled. We have an African-American woman from Sussex County. It's like filling an inside straight."

Parker-Selby is out of town and unavailable for comment.

The credit for turning the party's attention to Parker-Selby goes to Sussex County Councilman Vance C. Phillips, who met her when she was a legislative candidate. "She's like a diamond. She has a taste for community service. Her roots run deep. As a farmer, I appreciate it," Phillips said.

The filing deadline for candidates closed last month, but the parties can add someone to fill a hole on the ballot until Sept. 1. The spot for treasurer is the most glaring opening on the Republican ticket, as is the vacancy against R. Thomas Wagner Jr., the Republican state auditor, on the Democrats' side.

The Republicans are not kidding themselves about the chances of a candidate who enters so late against Markell, but they like what it says about their efforts to expand their party's draw for women and minorities.

"Markell is obviously a formidable opponent, but there are ways of winning, other than beating Markell," said Terry A. Strine, the Republican state chair.

If problems are all there are to start with, they might as well be used for something.

Muddle, muddle, boil and bubble

That yelp heard around the state was from Dennis Spivack, the Democrats' endorsed congressional candidate, when he found out that U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, the seven-term Republican, was responsible for killing a bill that could have spared him a nuisance primary.

Spivack, who is probably the loudest candidate running for statewide office this year, cannot get to undivided tub-thumping against Castle because of Karen M. Hartley-Nagle, who came from the fringes of state politics to complicate Spivack's campaign by running for the Congress on the tickets of both the Democratic Party and the Independent Party of Delaware.

There is nothing in state law to prevent Hartley-Nagle's "fusion" candidacy. The Democrats tried to stop her by teaming up with the Republicans -- who realized  they could face the same situation sometime themselves -- to craft legislation that would require candidates to run only with the party where they are registered.

The General Assembly quit for the year on July 1 without passing the bill when the Republicans bailed on it, after Castle put out the word that he was opposed. His motivation was mixed -- not wanting to change the rules in the middle of the election season but also not minding what it did to the Democrats, even if he does typically romp to re-election.

"Anything I can do to put little roadblocks in the way," Castle said.

It was enough to make Spivack boil over, not that it takes much, anyway.

"By interfering with local political rules to force me to face a primary, Mike Castle just shows that he's running scared, a beaten man," Spivack fumed by e-mail. "I'm just waiting for him to come out and face me on the issues instead of trying to throw banana peels under my feet in the form of insignificant primary candidates."

Amid such fulmination, it would be understandable to become confused about who was doing the interfering. If Castle meddled with the bill, what was it that Spivack and the Democrats were doing with state law?

Meddling is in the eye not of the meddler, but the meddlee.