Posted: Sept. 5, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Republicans, formerly known as a political party, had a big fund-raiser Saturday evening in Rehoboth Beach.

They were like that rock star, formerly known as Prince. Whatever the symbol was he adopted as his name for a while, it made it hard to know what to call him, and whatever the Republicans are right now, it is hard to know what to call them.

Maybe the Republicans should be given a symbol, too, like an asterisk. It would be the way it was in baseball when Roger Maris hit more home runs in a season than Babe Ruth, except the season was longer, so Maris was said to hold not the record but the record.*

The Republicans* these days are violating one of the greatest sayings in politics, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

They look like a political party and act like a political party, but . . .

"You have to have candidates running. It's one of the ingredients," one of them quipped.

The Republicans* have no candidates for the major offices. Here it is, just about a year before the primary, and they have a blank slate, while the Democrats have an all-incumbent ticket of Jack Markell for governor, Tom Carper for senator, John Carney for congressman and Matt Denn for lieutenant governor.

Here is the reality. Of the 30 or so people who were recognized Saturday at the fund-raiser, more than half of them were former somethings.

Mike Castle, the former congressman* and former governor.* Tom Evans, the former congressman.* Janet Rzewnicki, the former state treasurer.* John Still, the former state Senate minority leader.* Tom Ross, the former state chair.* Michele Rollins, the former congressional candidate.* And so on.

The Republicans* did get all of their top officeholders to the event -- Tom Wagner, the state auditor, Gary Simpson, the minority leader in the state Senate, and Greg Lavelle, the minority leader in the state House of Representatives. That is all.

Whatever the woes, the Republicans* showed they still know how to raise money. They sold about 200 tickets, priced anywhere from $75 to $600 to benefit their 2012 legislative candidates, for the outdoor reception at Kings Creek Country Club.

This was the last of the country club Republicans, the ones who dominated the state in the 1970s and 1980s when Pete du Pont and Mike Castle were the governors and Bill Roth was the senator with breathtakingly national stature, famous for the Roth-Kemp tax cut and the Roth IRA.

They were acutely aware of their status, and they knew the reason for it, too.

All through the evening, as people gathered in clutches with their cocktails, they made bitter little jokes about Christine O'Donnell, who snatched away their most determined bid for renewal a year ago when they had Castle for senator, Rollins for congresswoman and a fine class of state House candidates who could have brought them close to the majority.

O'Donnell was not there. "First she was invited, then she was disinvited, then she was invited, and then she was disinvited," someone cracked.

Mike Quaranta, who used to be Castle's chief of staff*, was even blunter about O'Donnell and what she did. "Crazy wins primaries," he said.

Castle was the main speaker, elegiac and unblinking.

"I look at Delaware and what is happening. Obviously there are many officeholders of the opposite party in Delaware -- perfectly competent people, I'm not going to be critical of any of them -- but I do believe a balance is important in terms of politics," he said.

"I don't believe the Republican Party can frankly be reduced much more than it is now."

When Pete du Pont was the governor,* he used to have a saying, enter the battle at the lowest point, you have nowhere to go but up.

The Republicans* at least have that part down pat.