Posted: Aug. 21, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

When neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden decided to pop into Delaware, it looked like Matt Denn was going to have a good day to declare for re-election as the Democratic lieutenant governor.

Right away, Denn seemed better off making the obligatory three-county tour Monday than Sher Valenzuela, his Republican opponent, whose own announcement back in April was bigfooted.

Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate of Valenzuela's very own party, had breezed blithely into the state, no matter that he was upstaging the joint rollout of the Republican ticket with Jeff Cragg for governor and Valenzuela for lieutenant governor.

Not only that, but Romney unsettled the Delaware Republicans during his appearance by acknowledging Christine O'Donnell but not Mike Castle, not exactly helping the party overcome the trauma of the Senate primary between them. Not only that, but Romney chose as his host someone who had maxed out in political contributions to Jack Markell, the Democratic governor.

Who in the world was running Romney's advance team? Mr. Magoo and Inspector Clouseau?

It did not get better afterwards. Romney continued to treat Valenzuela as if she almost did not exist.

Valenzuela actually had a chance to meet Romney during his trip here as part of a private session with some local businesswomen. She told him about her experience with First State Manufacturing, an upholstery company she started with her husband Eli in their garage in Milford after he took a mail-order upholstery course.

Romney was so taken by the entrepreneurial spirit of Sher Valenzuela's story that he incorporated it into his stump speech, except he never bothered to mention her name.

There Valenzuela was, getting all this attention, but nobody knew who it was. This was so unfair, considering that people certainly knew the name of Rafala, the Romney family's Olympic horse. Not to mention Seamus, the dog that rode on the roof of the family station wagon.

No surprise here. Such is the lot of lieutenant governors, or in this case an aspiring lieutenant governor. Under the constitution, they get to be bystanders to the governor, bystanders to roll calls in the state Senate and innocent bystanders to a whole rash of indignities.

Anyway, Romney's campaign has bigfooted Delaware again. This time, though, it is making some amends to Valenzuela, although it is unknown whether it meant to.

On the day Denn declared his candidacy, with his own party's presidential ticket safely elsewhere, the Republican National Committee announced that Valenzuela's entrepreneurship had landed her a prime-time speech at the nominating convention next Tuesday evening in Tampa.

It sounded so much better than what Denn was doing at about the same time the Republicans announced it. He was standing under a hot sun to give the third reading of his speech at his third stop on a long day, outside a nursery school in Wilmington, to a crowd of about 60 people who were already going to vote for him.

This might be the moment when the three-county tour deserved to have its burial with dignity, as a ritual that has become more trouble than it is worth, kind of like Joe Biden at Return Day until he no longer has Secret Service protection to gum it up.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were so happy about Valenzuela, as well they should be. In a state that has not elected a Republican as a governor or lieutenant governor since 1988 and has only gone more Democratic since, this could be the highlight of the campaign.

John Sigler, the state party chair, said in one press release, "Every Delawarean can be proud of Sher, her personal story and her record of achievement. The Delaware Republican Party is especially proud."

Reince Priebus, the nation party chair, said in another, "We are thrilled to have Sher on our convention schedule and excited to share her story with not only the people of Delaware, but also the entire country."

The Republicans might want to be careful what they wish for. After all, a hurricane looks like it is on the way to Tampa, and here they are, thinking they want a candidate for lieutenant governor to speak at a convention nominating Romney for president.

This convention could go down as the one that was bigfooted by a hurricane. Hurricane Bigfoot.