Posted: Aug. 14, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

More strange political bedfellows are coming together for a massive "Favorite Son Rally" for Joe Biden and his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The original odd couple with the concept for it was Samuel E. Lathem, the state AFL-CIO president who also is involved deeply in Democratic politics, and Alan B. Levin, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce chairman who could be the Republican candidate for governor.

Now it looks as though the steering committee will draw not only from labor and management but from the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association, too.

It is one thing for business and union to team up. The unions do good when business does good. But the trial lawyers? They are the attorneys who sue over malfunctioning products and safety slipups and so on. They do good when business does bad.

After thinking up the event in the spring, Lathem and Levin are turning it over to others to run, Lathem to Harry A. Gravell, the president of the Building & Construction Trades Council, and Levin to A. Richard Heffron, a chamber senior vice president and Democrat who was Biden's finance director in the 1978 senatorial race.

It is nothing new for Lathem -- "Sam's the idea guy, and then he says, run with it," quipped Gravell -- but Levin is battling an oft-voiced suspicion that the closer he moves toward running for governor, the more pressure he is getting from the Republican Party to distance himself from Biden.

Levin insists it was always his intent to cede the event planning to the chamber staff. He says he will be there for the rally.

The idea of a bipartisan showing for Biden continues to delight a state that takes pride in the way its smallness brings together people who otherwise are natural political enemies.

"I've called some Republican friends who say they're willing to help, because it's about Joe being the favorite son, not about the political affiliation," Gravell said.

"Joe's our guy. We may be Democrats, we may be Republicans, we may be business, we may be union, we may be trial lawyers," Heffron said. "It'd be great for Delaware if Joe became president -- except for the people who live around his house. It wouldn't be great for them."

Now the planners need a date and a place to stage their giant pep rally and fund-raiser, conceived to show how seriously this state takes the designation "favorite son."

They are thinking about holding the event in October on a weekend when the University of Delaware does not have a home football game. They first thought about having it at Frawley Stadium, the baseball park in Wilmington, but it will not do, because its bylaws prohibit its use for political events.

How ironic is that? Frawley Stadium can be named for a politician -- Daniel S. Frawley, the late mayor -- but not used for politics. It is like trying to collect seashells in Ocean View.