Posted: Sept. 10, 2006


Fax machine follies

The fax machine runneth over. It is spewing tricks timed for the end of primary season.

The election is Tuesday, when Delaware Democrats and Republicans go to the polls to settle their contested nominations. With nervousness and desperation mounting, the faxes are last-ditch attempts to do some damage.

Sometimes the faxes come from people who readily identify themselves. Sometimes they come anonymously from people who want the press to do the dirty work for them.

Here is one from John J. O'Brien, a retired lawyer running in a Democratic primary for New Castle County register of wills against Diane Clark Streett, the incumbent. He faxes a letter that Streett sent to new voters. It is written on her office letterhead and dated Sept. 7, five days before the primary.

"Dear New Registrant," the letter begins. "I am pleased to hear from the Department of Elections that you have recently registered to vote in New Castle County. As your register of wills, I urge you to make or update your will."

What follows is a bunch of bland legalese about writing and storing wills. The clearest part of the letter is "Diane Clarke Streett, Esquire."

O'Brien is crying foul. He says Streett is manipulating her office to get her name in front of voters. "I know exactly what the purpose of it was, mailing it out a few days before the election. Here she is, wasting taxpayers' money, sending this out," he said.

Streett is unapologetic, saying she simply is doing her job. She concedes this is the first time she has sent such a letter but plans to continue the practice. "Even though there's a campaign going on, I serve everybody equally. I'm certainly not the first elected official to send 'welcome to the neighborhood,'" she said.

Here is another fax that slithered in, its parentage a secret. It is seven pages of court records indicating that Karen M. Hartley-Nagle is a deadbeat. She is the "fusion" congressional candidate, running in a primary against Dennis Spivack, the endorsed Democrat, but she is also on the ticket of the Independent Party of Delaware.

The major parties do not like "fusion" candidates, whom they accuse of gaming the system by hanging around on a minor-party line in November, no matter what happens to them in the primary. Hartley-Nagle is expected to get trounced by Spivack, but here comes this attack fax, anyway.

It shows that Hartley-Nagle is more than $9,000 behind in child support after a divorce, owes the Internal Revenue Service almost $7,800 and has a federal tax lien against her, and did not pay thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Hartley-Nagle says it is true. She says the debts are the result of her divorce. She says she earns $750 a month from the Nagle Foundation, which she created to promote children's rights, and owes $600 a month in child support for three of her children. A fourth child lives with her.

"If I wasn't living with my mom and having a wonderful support system, I couldn't make it," she said, adding that the IRS has been understanding about her situation, too.

Actually, Hartley-Nagle is thrilled about the attack fax, because she thinks it plays into her long-running battle to reform the Family Court. "This is why I'm fighting Family Court, because of the decisions that devastate people's lives. I've been trying to bring this stuff out for years," she said.

Hartley-Nagle even likes the fax for political reasons. "This is good. When they're attacking you, I must be doing great," she said.

Here is one more fax, a very funny one that is a copy of a legitimate campaign flier from Michael D. Protack, a dog-in-the-manger Republican running in a three-way primary for the U.S. Senate. It is Protack's latest assault on Jan C. Ting, the Temple University law professor who is the endorsed candidate.

The flier has an unfortunate photograph of Ting in a silly Republican elephant hat. It also shows seven little silhouettes of Democratic donkeys, all facing left, and says, "Don't be fooled by the disguise. Professor Ting will lead us in the wrong direction!!"

Ting's face under oversized ears and an upturned trunk is enduring evidence of why candidates are warned never to wear hats. (This does not count Stephanie T. Bolden, the Wilmington Democratic councilwoman who is the exception that proves the rule. She knows how to style in a hat.)

Protack, an airline pilot, has a history of desiring high office, any office -- governor, senator, state party chair -- and getting nowhere. At least this time, he is getting a laugh.

A general again

Richard S. Gebelein, who took early retirement from the Superior Court to serve as an international judge in Bosnia, came home briefly for his retirement dinner from the Delaware National Guard.

The end of his military service, which lasted 26 years and included a call-up to Afghanistan, was recognized Friday evening by about 80 fellow Guard members, family and friends at the Hockessin Memorial Hall.

It was an informal affair with no one in uniform, although Guard members did come to attention when Gebelein received the Conspicuous Service Cross, the highest state award, and the Legion of Merit, a prestigious federal award.

The medals were pinned onto the pocket of his light-blue civilian shirt, fueling the image of the Guard as citizen-soldier. Gebelein, who was a JAG colonel, also was promoted in retirement to brigadier general, his new silver star pinned to his civilian collar.

A couple of decades ago, when he was the attorney general, he sometimes was called "General Gebelein," an old-fashioned way of addressing the occupant of the office.

Now he is "General Gebelein" again.