Posted: Aug. 7, 2014
THE RISE OF THE REPUBLICAN MILLENNIALS?
By Celia Cohen
Everything looks awful for the Delaware Republicans.
The Democrats have the governorship and the congressional delegation and a lock on the legislature. The biggest name the Republicans have on the 2014 ballot is Tom Wagner, the auditor, best known as the last Republican standing in statewide office, and he could lose.
What is a lone Republican to do?
Sam Chick is throwing a party. A big, glitzy blowout of a party.
A Friday night out at Dover Downs. Black tie preferred. Open bar, music, food, gourmet chocolate, the works, and he is calling it the Delaware Republican Gala. It is next week on Aug. 15, with tickets selling for $125.
This kind of political event would be an ambitious undertaking for anyone, but it seems especially so, considering Chick is nothing but a legislative candidate who has never been elected to anything.
Chick is running for the state House of Representatives in the 31st District in Dover. It is his second attempt. He lost badly in 2012, but that was against Darryl Scott, a sitting Democrat. Scott is leaving the legislature, and the Democrats have a primary, so Chick could find himself in a competitive race this time, even though the Democratic registration edge over the Republicans is 2-1.
Chick is 28 years old. He was in the Army with the 101st Airborne, the famous "Screaming Eagles," and spent 14 months in Iraq. He works in the family business at Chick's Saddlery, the horse and riding store that is a landmark in Harrington.
The idea behind the gala is to showcase Republican Millennials, candidates like Chick himself who are part of the 80 million-plus people in the generation born between 1981 and 2000, and to finance a political action committee called the Delaware Republican Victory Foundation, which Chick formed to identify voters likely to support Republicans.
The Republicans might as well try to bring on the Millennials. It has not worked out so well for them in Delaware with the Baby Boomers and Generation X.
"I'd like to see the Republican Party advance in Delaware. I really want to see more young people in the party. We've got to get regular people involved. The decisions that are made in government affect you," Chick said.
The gala is already operating in the black, Chick says, with 160 tickets sold by early in the week toward a goal of 200 tickets.
The event has not been without hiccups.
Because it was new, there were immediately suspicions involving Republican state headquarters and the House Republican caucus that somebody was encroaching on somebody else's turf, but it all appears to be smoothed over.
Not to mention the gala suits the leadership style of Charlie Copeland, the party's state chair. When the choices are lead, follow or get out of the way, Copeland is inclined to get out of the way.
"I think it's pretty exciting that a young guy is putting something like that together. The more people that are pulling oars in our party, the better," Copeland said.
Copeland is one of the speakers at the gala, along with Mike Castle, who won more statewide races than any other Delaware Republican as a congressman, governor and lieutenant governor, and Ken Simpler, a candidate for treasurer invited before anyone knew he would have a primary.
"I was impressed with Sam Chick in his last race, just as a candidate. He conducted himself well. To be honest, that's about the extent of my knowledge of him," Castle said.
Another sticking point about the gala was left unresolved. It seems the lineup of Republican Millennials being featured that evening is made up entirely of House candidates who are young, white and male -- Chick himself, Rob Keesler from Wilmington, Pete Kramer from Smyrna, Matt Lenzini from Bear and Jeff Spiegelman, the only Millenial state representative, from Clayton.
Debbie Hudson, the House's Republican minority whip, politely called it a "social error," although not enough of one to prevent her from buying a pair of tickets.
Chick explained that the lineup just turned out that way. "I wish we had a female candidate who fit the profile. We're not trying to exclude anybody. You can't let the fear of failure or fear of criticism hold you back," he said.
Delaware is so overwhelmingly Democratic these days it would be simply politics-as-usual if all of the featured Millennials lost.
All of them are running in Democratic districts. Unlike Chick, who is trying for an open seat, three of the others are taking on sitting Democrats with Keesler against Gerald Brady, Kramer against Trey Paradee and Lenzini against Valerie Longhurst, the majority leader who also has a primary. Spiegelman is in a rematch of a race he won against Lynne Newlin in 2012 by only 210 votes.
Maybe the gala gets to be the Republican Millennials' first hurrah. Maybe it gets to be nothing more than a summer social.
As Colin Bonini, a Republican state senator from Camden, is fond of saying, "As a Republican in Delaware, you can do everything right and still lose."