Posted: Aug. 31, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Sussex County Democratic Jamboree really is misnamed. It ought to be changed to the Democratic Audition.

As summer fades, the Sussex contingent regularly hosts a big picnic for the Delaware Democrats at a pavilion among the sand dunes of Cape Henlopen State Park. In election years, the party tests its message for the building campaign season. In off years, like this one, aspiring candidates show up for a tryout.

The auditioning brought in all sorts to mill around Saturday evening-- everything from the shoo-ins, virtually assured a spot on the 2010 statewide ticket, to the shams, destined to fizzle faster than Tropical Storm Danny, to something in between.

To sort them out, it probably was a good idea to listen to the governor. Jack Markell came across like a casting director.

When he took his turn to speak to the crowd, estimated by the organizers at about 270 Democrats, Markell gave shout-outs that made it sound as if he was calling most of the ballot for senator, representative, attorney general, treasurer and auditor.

"Please stand up, Hallie. Hallie Biden," Markell said.

As the stand-in for her husband, Hallie Biden stood. It was the latest indication that Beau Biden's return from Iraq with his National Guard unit in about a month will begin his transition from attorney general to a Senate candidate.

"Glad to see Lt. Gov. Carney," Markell said.

That would be John Carney, actually the former lieutenant governor, working the tables while his volunteers plastered "John Carney for Congress" stickers on people's shirts.

There was also a nod from the governor for a pair who could be trying to figure out whether they can turn an appointment into an election.

"Where's Carl Danberg?" Markell asked.

Danberg, currently the corrections commissioner, did a stint as attorney general in between the time Jane Brady, a three-term Republican, bailed for a judgeship in 2005 and Beau Biden took office after he was elected in 2006. For now, Danberg remains a Cabinet officer with any candidacy on hold until Biden makes his move.

"Velda Jones-Potter. Let's hear it for our state treasurer. One of the first decisions I got to make was to appoint my replacement," Markell said.

Jones-Potter has not said she wants to run, but she clearly was making the most of this cavalcade of candidates. She was one of the sponsors of the jamboree, even though she is from Wilmington, and she stationed herself by the food line to shake hands.

As a statewide official, Jones-Potter made it onto the program. She zeroed in on an earlier comment from Markell, who observed it was one thing to get elected, but something else to serve.

"I haven't been elected yet," Jones-Potter said, "but I have been very pleased to serve."

As for the rest who fell short of a gubernatorial mention, well, thanks for showing up for the cattle call, but this might not be the year for Scott Spencer for Congress, Chip Flowers for treasurer or Richard Korn for auditor.

Whatever the shape of the ticket turns out to be, the Democrats are much closer to putting theirs together than the Republicans are. The Republicans have their fingers crossed that Congressman Mike Castle will run for the Senate, and they know Auditor Tom Wagner is running for re-election, but otherwise, it gets murky.

If Castle retires instead of anchoring the ticket, something that could happen, it would be regarded as so dire for the Republicans that the party leaders could be reluctant to watch. They might be looking for ways into the witness protection program.

No matter how much it seemed that Markell was calling the Democratic ticket, he said afterwards there was no intent behind it.

"I hadn't thought about it quite that way," he said.

The more thought Markell did give it, though, the more he smiled.