Posted: Aug. 10, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Redistricting is the cruelest punch. It can collapse a seat under a legislator into nothingness, no matter if it is occupied by the second coming of Henry Clay or a hack who would have been right at home in Tammany Hall.

Redistricting can turn political allies into adversaries, exactly what is happening in a legislative race for a Hockessin-Pike Creek Valley seat.

Every 10 years, redistricting has to be. The Delaware General Assembly reconfigures itself, based on the national census, so all the districts can return to being pretty much equal in population in the name of the constitutional principle of one-person-one-vote.

It comes around the first election into a new decade, that is, in the years ending with a "two" -- 2012, 2002, 1992 and so on. They are anguish for legislators, who mostly act like the constitutional principle of one-person-one-vote should really not be paramount to the personal principle of one-member-one-district.

They are the Terrible Twos of politics. Not to mention legislators have been known to carry on like two-year-old toddlers over the loss of a district that is theirs, theirs, theirs.

They can get possessive to the point they look possessed. Arthur Scott and Dave Brady, two Democratic ex-legislators whose districts evaporated in the last redistricting crunch, still want to be back in so much, they are running 10 years later in primaries against sitting Democrats.

Somebody has to go, though. In the latest round of redistricting, one seat in the Senate was relocated from upstate to downstate, and so were two seats in the House of Representatives.

It is bad enough when Democratic and Republican legislators wind up running against each other. That is at least the natural order of politics. It is worse when the legislators are from the same party.

In one case this time, there is indeed the ultimate doomsday scenario, two representatives from the same party fighting for a single seat in a primary for the new 22nd Representative District, situated in the northwestern suburban reaches of New Castle County.

They are Nick Manolakos, a three-term Republican from the Hockessin end of the district, and Joe Miro, a seven-term Republican from the Pike Creek Valley side.

"I couldn't talk Joe into retiring, and Joe couldn't talk me into walking away," Manolakos quipped.

The new district does not seem designed for Manolakos or Miro, so the race looks like a tossup.

Manolakos is an assistant principal at A.I. du Pont High School. Miro is a retired teacher. If there is one vote differentiating them, it probably would be the one authorizing civil unions for same-sex couples. Miro voted against it. Manolakos was one of three Republican legislators voting for it.

The two incumbents appeared together Wednesday before about 40 people at a candidates forum, hosted by the Young Republicans, in Pike Creek Valley. They stayed well within the bounds of civility, even if it sometimes seemed like they were kicking each other in the shins out of sight.

"Joe has been at it a long time. To be honest with you, Joe has done a good job, but in my mind he represents the old values. I think I represent tomorrow," Manolakos said.

"I feel I have the time to represent the people. I'm retired, and this is all I do. I think I'm the right person for the job," Miro said.

The Republicans cannot exactly afford to lose either of them, already down 26-15 to the House Democratic majority, but that is the way it is. One of them will be out after the primary on Sept. 11.

At least the Republicans are likely to keep the seat, because the district's registration favors them. Whoever wins the primary will run against Dave Ellis, a Democrat trounced 2-1 by Miro in 2010.

"I'm heartbroken they have to run against each other," said Liane Sorenson, the Senate's Republican minority whip from Hockessin.

Sorenson, who is retiring this year, went to the candidates forum but not to take sides, not even in the straw poll the Young Republicans held to raise a little money at the event.

The straw poll was meaningless, purely for entertainment, with the ballots available to all takers at five dollars a pop. To help out the Young Republicans, Sorenson paid 20 bucks for four of them.

She voted twice for Manolakos and twice for Miro. Redistricting is cruel, not Sorenson.