Posted: Aug. 22, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Republicans have to import their speakers these days. This is what happens when the highest homegrown politician in the party is the state auditor.

Not so the Democrats. They have a giant bunny hop of a line for speaking time.

The Democrats have the governor, both senators, congressman, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and insurance commissioner. Not to mention if the vice president shows up, an event can go long enough for the clock to be ticking on the mice and pumpkins.

What a dirty little secret it is for both parties, the Republicans relieved to land a big name and the Democrats not to.

The Republicans got their man when they invited Reince Priebus, their national chair, to Georgetown on Saturday afternoon for a picnic they called "Operation Win Back Delaware."

Probably it was just a coincidence that an event billed as "Operation Win Back Delaware" was scheduled at the same time Christine O'Donnell was far away upstate at a book signing.

The party got a crowd of about 400 people, who came to eat hot dogs and hamburgers and hear how the heck to pronounce the national chair's name. It sounds like "Rhine-s Pree-bus," as if a German river runs through it.

"I know it's a bizarre name," Priebus told them. "My name's what happens when a Greek and a German get married."

The Republicans cannot win back Delaware unless they can back candidates, and so far their statewide slate is blank. Unlike the Democrats, whose slate is full with Jack Markell running again for governor, Tom Carper for senator, John Carney for congressman, Matt Denn for lieutenant governor and Karen Weldin Stewart for insurance commissioner, although she has a primary.

John Sigler, the Republican state chair, predicted the 2012 ticket would take shape in a few weeks.

It would be especially nice if there were some people thinking about running for governor.

"They're all in here," quipped Greg Lavelle, who is not only the minority leader in the state House of Representatives but the Republican state vice chair.

Still, there were stirrings. It did not go unnoticed that Tom Kovach, the New Castle County Council president, came all the way downstate to a Sussex County picnic. He has been mentioned as a possible congressional candidate.

"I was just in the neighborhood," Kovach deadpanned.

Uh-huh. It was the sort of thing Chris Coons used to say, as the New Castle County executive showing up regularly at Democratic events downstate, before he made a daredevil leap statewide and came up a senator.

Sigler made sure everyone was in on the secret. "There's a rumor floating around, Tom, you may be looking at something else, I don't know," he said.

Maybe a candidate for the Senate was present, too. Kevin Wade, a Fair Tax advocate who wants income taxes replaced by sales taxes, dropped by, and he is looking at the race. There also has been talk about Glen Urquhart, the Sussex County Republican chair who was the 2010 congressional candidate, but he was playing coy.

"I'm focused on doing the job I have," Urquhart said, although he allowed, "If called, I will serve."

As the Sussex County chair, Urquhart got to speak at the picnic. Lo and behold, he was like a genie out of the bottle for the Democrats. They had put out an advance press release warning that the Republican picnic would actually be a Tea Party.

"Barack Hussein Obama's popularity is lower here than anywhere else," Urquhart said. "Sussex County wants to help lead the first state, Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution, to be the first to ratify the Constitution again and oust Obama."

After those remarks, Urquhart gave the prayer. Not that it was easy to tell where one ended and the other began. "Heal those, Father, who are addicted to spending and debt, which is just plain stealing. As you set your people free from Pharaoh, God Almighty, set America free from bankrupt socialist schemes that should have died along with the Soviet Union."

Next came Tom Wagner, the state auditor. The mightiest Republican was called upon to help lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

It was Priebus' job to turn the picnic into a rally. He reminded the crowd he was from Wisconsin, which has morphed from deep-blue Democratic to bright-red Republican with Scott Walker, the governor who took on the public labor unions, Paul Ryan, the congressman who chairs the Budget Committee, and Ron Johnson, the senator who unseated Russ Feingold.

"What we did in Wisconsin, you can do here. That's why I came here," Priebus said.

"We have a lot to fight for in this country. If this president gets re-elected, we will lose the country economically. We cannot afford to re-elect Obama. Now unfortunately, that means you're going to be getting Joe Biden back in Delaware," he cracked.

The Republicans next have a major fund-raiser in two months at the Vicmead Hunt Club in Chateau Country. Nikki Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, will be there, another imported speaker lined up when the state auditor will not do.