Posted: Aug. 29, 2014
THE LAST BAMBOOZLE
By Celia Cohen
Sean Barney, who was the other Democratic candidate for state treasurer, was hosting a casual wine-and-cheese reception Wednesday evening near Newark for some small-dollar contributors, except nobody knew exactly what it was for.
Was it for the Democratic primary election, only 13 days away, or the general election in the fall?
It would take another whirlwind 24 hours or so to find out that Chip Flowers, the Democratic treasurer who was stringing out his exit in a slow-motion melodrama, would indeed let the withdrawal of his candidacy go forward on Thursday at 4 p.m., but not before one last bamboozle.
Barney sounded that evening at his reception as though he had it figured out -- "we're looking toward the fall" -- but it is fair to say that Delaware politics at the moment was pretty much on hold.
Even Barney's official endorsement was. He left his reception early to dash to party headquarters near New Castle, where the Democrats' state executive committee was meeting. It had not endorsed anyone for treasurer, but it was ready now, or at least nearly ready.
Flowers had put politics on such a crawl by post-dating his withdrawal that the Democrats, at Barney's request, post-dated their endorsement to make it free and clear for anyone to sign on.
Barney's endorsement took effect the next day, immediately after Flowers was supposed to be off the ballot, on Thursday at 4:01 p.m.
Meanwhile, a day was still plenty of time for Flowers to engineer another one of the misdirection bamboozles he was known for.
Who could forget the drip-drip-drip of protestations until it finally came out that Flowers did attend a New England Patriots football game with Erika Benner, then the deputy state treasurer, with tickets originally charged to a state credit card?
What about the way he snookered the legislature into putting off action for an entire six months on a bill, meant to stop his power grab for the state's investment portfolio?
It should have been no surprise that Flowers milked his exit as long as he could.
He waited nearly a week to tender his withdrawal after declaring he would be taking himself out of Delaware politics and relocating to Massachusetts, and when he finally did turn it in, he dragged his departure out even longer with an effective date another week later.
State election officials were distraught. They had 900 voting machines to re-do but could not start until Flowers' candidacy was officially over.
What else should people have expected? Someone who had treated the state's investment apparatus like it was set up for his personal convenience would think the election system was, too.
Naturally, there was mischief yet to come. A notice appeared Wednesday on Twitter that Flowers would have a statement on Thursday afternoon about the primary, and alarms went off all through state politics.
Surely, Flowers was not going to try to withdraw his withdrawal, or was he?
A tweet on Thursday morning said Flowers would be speaking with Elaine Manlove, the election commissioner, and a deputy attorney general that afternoon. This was it.
Finally, it was. Flowers confirmed his withdrawal, and about 10 minutes later, election officials noted on the list of ballot-qualified candidates on their Web site there would be no Democratic primary on Sept. 9 for treasurer, only a Republican primary between Ken Simpler and Sher Valenzuela.
Barney had the Democratic nomination by forfeit.
All that was left was to write Flowers' political epitaph, so here is one. Flowers was the Great Bamboozler. He fooled enough of the people too much of the time.