Posted: Aug. 18, 2014; updated: Sept. 3, 2014
OUR LONG DELAWARE NIGHTMARE IS OVER
By Celia Cohen
Delaware will not have Chip Flowers to kick around anymore.
Flowers, the Democratic state treasurer, says he is quitting Delaware politics after a single turbulent term and departing for Massachusetts.
It was fitting his decision to exit fell so close to the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's leave-taking of the presidency in 1974, because Flowers' last public statement on Friday had so many Nixonian overtones, with its passive-aggressive pastiche of victimhood and defiance, it was hard not to wonder if he would declare, "I'm not a crook."
Flowers lamented he was so besieged, he could not break away to select the cake for his upcoming wedding. Did anyone hear echoes of Nixon, insisting he was going to keep the little dog Checkers?
Funny that Flowers is on his way to Massachusetts, the only state that did not vote for Nixon in 1972. It could mean that Massachusetts will get wise to Flowers, too.
Flowers slipped into office with 51 percent of the vote four years ago, the first African-American candidate ever to win statewide here and a beneficiary, like most of the Democratic ticket, of the Republican collapse following the Senate primary between Mike Castle and Christine O'Donnell.
Despite the narrow election, Flowers acted as expansively as Nixon with a 49-state mandate. He arranged to take his oath in grand style in January 2011, ironically enough at the Delaware Art Museum, considering how much the reputations of both have been tarnished since.
"Back in 2011, we were making history. We had a bright, young African-American candidate. It was something to celebrate," said Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic speaker who was the majority leader then and came all the way from Sussex County to Wilmington to be there.
"That might have been the high point. It's gone downhill since then. I think he may be the victim of his own doing."
Flowers spent his time in politics as profligately as a cat with nine lives. Here is the count:
Political underdog. Give Flowers credit. He gambled his first life in a masterpiece of derring-do. He filed for the Democratic primary in 2010 against Velda Jones-Potter, who was not only Jack Markell's appointee to replace himself when he became governor, but also the party's endorsed candidate.
Women trouble, Part I. During the 2010 campaign, Flowers did some pre-emptive damage control by summoning the press to acknowledge a rocky love life. It seems there was a petition for Protection From Abuse filed against him by a ex-girlfriend in 2004. It was dismissed for insufficient proof.
Women trouble, Part II. It seems there was also a three-day trial in the Court of Common Pleas in 2007 on misdemeanor charges of assault and criminal mischief involving another ex-girlfriend. Flowers was acquitted.
Power over the purse. Flowers made a household name out of the Cash Management Policy Board, previously an obscure panel, by feuding with it for control over the state's $2 billion investment portfolio. It brought him into conflict with the governor, the secretary of state, the finance secretary and eventually the legislature. He lost.
Have office, will travel. A trip to Alaska for a state treasurers conference in 2012 turned into a public nightmare for Flowers amid a confusion of who-paid-what-for-whom and an unforgettable food orgy of a room-service breakfast tab for a farmer's omelet, wheat toast, pancakes, two orders of bacon, two orders of apple juice, orange juice and a small pot of coffee.
Political football. Surprise, surprise, it finally came out that Flowers did attend a New England Patriots football game in 2011 with Erika Benner, then the deputy treasurer, who charged the tickets to her state credit card, an expense she eventually repaid. Oh, that New England Patriots game.
Vote of no confidence. The Democratic Party presciently washed its hands of Flowers by declining to endorse anyone in the 2014 primary, in which Flowers was running against Sean Barney, a past aide to Markell and to Tom Carper, the Democratic senator.
Fourth of July fireworks. Benner went to the Dover police to accuse Flowers of harassment that came out of a confrontation between Flowers and her teen-age son at an Independence Day parade. It blew up about a month before Primary Day, which is Sept. 9. After a weeks-long investigation, her complaint was dismissed.
The primary does it. The word among Democrats was the polling was showing Flowers down about 10 points to Barney. It was looking a lot like Flowers' ninth and final political life was passing before his eyes. He was done.
About time. As Gerald Ford might have said, our long Delaware nightmare is over.