Posted: Sept. 29, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

In a rush to get a campaign going, the Delaware Republicans decided Saturday that their candidate for a special legislative election will be Joanne M. Christian, who is the president of the Appoquinimink school board.

Christian will run against state Rep. Bruce C. Ennis, the Democratic candidate who has been in place since Wednesday, for the right to replace state Sen. James T. Vaughn Sr., a Democrat who resigned for health reasons after 27 years representing a district that spans New Castle County and Kent County.

The election has not been scheduled yet but is expected to be held in early November. It will not alter the political control of the state Senate, where the Democrats have a 13-8 majority.

Christian was selected by a search committee that met for the first and only time Saturday as the Republicans hurried to catch up to the Democrats and what looks like a suspiciously early start.

Everything fell in place on Wednesday for the Democrats as Vaughn's resignation, effective Friday, was announced a matter of hours before the party held a previously scheduled meeting and emerged with Ennis as its choice.

"It was an insider deal," said state Sen. Charles L. Copeland, the Republican minority leader.

Not that the Democrats needed another advantage. The district's registration favors them, and Ennis is a 25-year veteran legislator reminiscent of Vaughn as another laconic retired state trooper from the Kent County side of the district. Ennis also brings Vaughn's endorsement.

In Christian, a 48-year-old Townsend resident, the Republicans chose someone they anticipate will appeal to the fast-growing New Castle County side.

"Head of the school board, lifelong Delawarean, five kids, nursing degree, we're talking about someone who is a pillar of the community. When you look at Joanne Christian and what her background is and how that lines up across the district, she was the choice of the committee," Copeland said.

That choice riled John Feroce, one of three other applicants interviewed by the search committee. Feroce was the Republican candidate in 2006 in a three-way race in which Vaughn polled 59 percent of the vote, even though he was too sick to campaign, Feroce received 34 percent and a minor-party candidate 7 percent.

Feroce, who was so eager to run that he flew back from a wedding in Florida for the search committee's session, charged that bad blood with Copeland cost him his chance. Copeland was a member of the committee.

Feroce slammed Copeland as someone who advanced by eliminating Republican rivals, taking out state Sen. J. Dallas Winslow Jr. in a primary and Sen. John C. Still III for minority leader, and who did not want Feroce in the caucus.

"Charlie and I do not like each other," Feroce said. "Charlie's only succeeded in stopping other Republicans, and this is another indication. I never bought into all that talk, but now this happens."

Terry A. Strine, the Republican state chair, defended the committee's decision. "Joanne is a force in the community," he said. "It was on open process. It was handled in a collegial fashion. I don't think anyone is owed anything."

Feroce said he will be resigning immediately as an officer in local Republican organizations, but it does not mean he is finished with politics or perhaps even in trying to influence how the Republican campaign fares in this age of minor parties and write-in candidacies.

"Maybe there's another way for ballot access," Feroce said.