Posted: Sept. 21, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

State Senate Republicans quietly braced over the summer for the possibility of a special election to replace one of their members, although it never came.

Sen. Steven H. Amick, a 60-year-old retired lawyer from Newark, had thoughts about giving up politics, but not public life, and applied to be the city alderman, the chief judge of the municipal court in his home town.

It would have been a way to ease back. The judicial post, which was open because of a resignation, pays about $34,000 a year -- not as much as a legislator's annual salary of $42,750, but the alderman usually spends only about 10 hours a week in court, not to mention no driving to Dover.

Amick was regarded as a strong candidate when he was interviewed Aug. 14 along with four others by the Newark Council, which is responsible for recommending someone to be nominated by the governor and confirmed by the same Senate in which Amick serves.

A legislator since 1986, Amick left the impression he had enough of a lawmaker's lot. "Another campaign for a Senate seat did not really appeal to him after doing it for 21 years and [he] was looking for other opportunities for something different, and this one really appealed to him," the city secretary recorded in the meeting minutes.

Amick also left the impression he was not entirely sold on being the alderman in a city that needs an energetic judicial officer to handle the high jinks emanating from the University of Delaware.

"I didn't come away convinced that Steve really, really wanted the job. When you have to deal with 10,000 student cases, you have to really want to do the job," said Mayor Vance A. Funk III, once the alderman himself.

The council voted 6-1 for Lisa Hatfield, a Newark resident who works across the Maryland line as a Cecil County prosecutor and recently was admitted to the Delaware bar.

That decision saved Delaware's political class from another grueling special election for a legislative seat, after two earlier ordeals this year in Brandywine Hundred and Sussex County, because Amick would have had to resign from the Senate to serve as the alderman.

It especially spared the Republicans, who already are outnumbered 13-8 in the Senate, because the voter registration favors the Democrats in Amick's district, which takes in part of Newark and stretches south through the Bear-Glasgow area almost to Middletown.

The Democrats also were better-positioned to recruit a replacement, starting with two current officeholders living in the district -- New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Kenneth W. Boulden Jr. and state Rep. Bethany A. Hall-Long.

The Republicans lacked obvious choices of their own. State Sen. Charles L. Copeland, the Republican minority leader, said he was awaiting developments before starting a search. "I was aware of what Steve was doing, although I don't think I was aware from Day One," Copeland said.

Amick's term is up next year. Despite what he told the Newark Council, he insisted he wanted another one. "You understand I'm a job applicant," he said. "It's my intention to run for re-election."

The Dover crowd has been known to take care of its own, as it did when Republican M. Jane Brady decided she would rather be a judge than run a tough re-election race for attorney general, but Amick declared he would not pull strings to thwart the Newark Council and get the job for himself.

Not his style, Amick said.

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Wilmington Council President Theodore Blunt does not want to cede the issue of available health care in his campaign for lieutenant governor, even though his Democratic primary opponent is Insurance Commissioner Matthew P. Denn, who has spent his tenure casting himself as David against the Goliath insurance industry.

Blunt has turned to personal experience to make his case, as he did when he spoke Sunday to about 30 people at a reception held for him in the home of Norman M. Oliver, a Democratic ex-councilman now living in Middletown.

A retired educator, Blunt had the health insurance that allowed him to be treated for a cancerous prostate -- he has been clean for five years -- and a ruptured appendix three years ago.

The burst appendix nearly killed Blunt. He walked around with it for a day before he finally went to his doctor, who ordered him to the hospital for what turned out to be emergency surgery an hour after he got there . . . once he got there.

"Rather than going right there, you know the old adage that your parents used to tell you -- before you go to the hospital, you want to change into clean underwear. The first thing I did, I went home," Blunt said.

Blunt got a big laugh. Health insurance could get him medical attention, but clean underwear could bring him votes.