Posted: Aug. 4, 2006
CANDIDATES ARE BOUNCED, AND SO IS THE OCCASIONAL CHECK
By Celia Cohen
The big names did not blink in a Democratic primary for a Wilmington legislative seat in the most closely-watched race for the Delaware House of Representatives.
A showdown between Gerald L. Brady and Loretta Walsh, both City Council members, came into focus as the deadline passed Friday for candidates to withdraw without forfeiting their filing fees.
Two other Democrats -- including David I. Walsh, the state Building & Construction Trades Council's executive director who is Loretta Walsh's stepson -- dropped out.
Brady and Walsh will slug it out Primary Day on Tuesday, Sept. 12, with the winner in an enviable position to capitalize on a Democratic registration edge against Gary C. Linarducci, the sole Republican, in the general election two months later on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The seat for the 4th Representative District, which stretches from Wilmington's west side to Greenville, attracted a cast of candidates -- with good reason.
This is the first time it has come open in 20 years, the legislative tenure of state Rep. Joseph G. DiPinto, who came off the City Council in 1986 to go to Dover, as Brady and Walsh are trying to do.
DiPinto, the respected co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, accomplished the considerable feat of winning election after election as a Republican running in the city, a Democratic stronghold. He is leaving the legislature to become the economic development director for Mayor James M. Baker, a Democrat, a cross-party move that is further evidence of the regard that DiPinto commands.
DiPinto's departure gives the Democrats their best chance to pick up a seat in the 41-member House, which the Republicans control 25-15 with one independent.
Five Democrats flocked to file, including Brady and both Walshes. The Republicans had at least that many interested, but they are playing defense and had the discipline to resolve the nomination internally and hand it to Linarducci, a lawyer who has run for public office before, most recently for the City Council in 2004.
On the Democratic side, there was never a doubt that one Walsh would vacate the field, and it turned out to be David, who is only four months into his new job with the building trades. Campbell Hay, the 2002 candidate, also dropped out. Democrat Joseph Zilcosky stayed in.
The result is a collision of wills between Walsh and Brady. Already Walsh is primed to mix it up with Brady, who left town on vacation July 24, four days before the filing deadline, and is not due back until Aug. 11.
"I'm obviously going to take my candidacy a lot more seriously," Walsh said. "I canceled my vacation for next week."
While the Democrats spent the time since the filing deadline wondering how some candidates would sort themselves out, the Republicans spent it trying to sort some filing fees out.
The parties themselves are responsible for setting the filing fees, typically basing them on the salaries for office. The money is collected by state election officials and turned over to the parties.
A $1,591 check submitted by John Feroce bounced, putting in jeopardy his candidacy in a Republican primary with Barbara J. Allsop for the legislative seat currently belonging to state Sen. James T. Vaughn Sr., a Clayton Democrat whom the Republicans have targeted.
Feroce, however, produced a letter from Wachovia Bank accepting responsibility for the miscue. Rick Counts, the banker who signed the letter, confirmed in a telephone interview Thursday that the bounced check was the bank's fault.
Feroce's candidacy has been accepted. "The check has been made good, so I gather that has been resolved satisfactorily," said Terry A. Strine, the Republican state chair.
The Republicans had a bigger dilemma with Christine O'Donnell, who surfaced unexpectedly to file for the U.S. Senate and complicate the primary between Jan C. Ting, the endorsed candidate, and Michael D. Protack. The Democratic candidate is U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the ex-governor seeking his second term.
O'Donnell's filing fee for $9,912 came in the form of a check signed by Eileen Lennox, a New Jersey resident, with a notation in the memo line reading, "Loan for filing fee. Good luck!" The amount exceeds the maximum federal contribution limit of $2,100.
Strine, the state chair, consulted with the general counsel for the national party, and the Republicans decided to accept the check, letting O'Donnell run and leaving the question about its legality up to the Federal Election Commission.
"It appears to us it was illegal, but their (Federal Election Commission) penalty is a fine, as opposed to disallowing her on the ballot," Strine said.
Strine said O'Donnell, who is something of a mystery to the Republicans, has not contacted the state party since she filed. She could not be located for comment.
After a week of political flurry, settling who was in and who was out, there was one candidate who clearly was out. It was Arthur Scott, a former Democratic state representative who works for the city.
Scott has been out of the legislature since 2002. He lost his district when it was combined with state Rep. Hazel D. Plant's during redistricting in 2002, and then he lost a Democratic primary to her. He lost again in 2004.
Now a Bear resident, Scott showed up at the New Castle County election office last Friday to file and force a primary against state Rep. Valerie J. Longhurst, a first-term Democrat who is being challenged by Republican Laura Brown.
The problem was, Scott was there at 4 p.m., and the filing deadline was noon. Nevertheless, he refused to say he made a mistake. "I changed my mind all of a sudden," Scott said.
Arriving four hours late can have that effect.