Posted: Sept. 23, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The last bit of campaign consternation due to Chip Flowers looks to be over.

When Flowers suddenly bailed out of the Democratic primary for treasurer just 12 days before the voting on Sept. 9, he left behind a conundrum about contributions.

Delaware election law says candidates who are nominated through a primary are allowed to double their intake, collecting a maximum of $1,200 for the primary election and another $1,200 for the general election from a single contributor.

The law says nothing, however, about what to do in this peculiar circumstance, where  Flowers turned the primary into a figment and Sean Barney won the nomination by forfeit.

Not that this is the first time state law became snarled with the gyrations from Flowers. Just ask the Cash Management Policy Board. Also the Office of Management & Budget. Also the General Assembly. It has a lot to do with why he is gone after a single term.

It meant the situation was murky going forward into the treasurer's election on Nov. 4 between Barney, formerly a policy aide for Jack Markell in the governor's office and Tom Carper in his Senate office, and Ken "Let's Make It" Simpler, the chief financial officer for the Seaboard Hotels and a past investment manager who won the Republican primary. 

The Republicans were positive Barney was not entitled to double contributions. The Democrats were certain it would be unfair if he was not.

Both sides wrote to Elaine Manlove, the election commissioner, to ask for a ruling.

Manlove considered. She called the arguments from both sides "reasonable interpretations," but she sided with the Democrats in her advisory opinion to allow Barney to double up on his contributions, as though there had been a primary.

(This led to a predictable round of tit-for-tat grumbling that Manlove only ruled that way because she is a Democratic appointee and that the Republicans only think that about her because she is a Democratic appointee.)

"I do not believe that the General Assembly intended to deny a primary election period to a candidate campaigning in good faith to win a primary race, simply because the candidate's opponent unilaterally withdrew from the race less than two weeks before the primary election," Manlove wrote in her opinion, which was dated Sept. 9 but not posted publicly on the office Web site until last week.

While Barney's campaign awaited her ruling, Manlove allowed it to delay the filing of a finance report that otherwise would have been due eight days before the primary, but shortly afterwards, she told the campaign to turn in a report.

It took a while. As a matter of fact, it took until Tuesday afternoon, following some extra prodding by Manlove and a disparaging press release from Simpler's campaign.

"We've had enough of the Dover insiders deciding which rules they want to follow," Simpler sniped.

Not that Barney's new report showed a lot. He added another $11,000 in contributions beyond what he had collected by his 30-day report, when he raised about $100,000 and also loaned his campaign $24,000. After expenditures, he had $69,000 left.

Simpler's 30-day and 8-day reports showed him taking in a total of $198,000, including a loan of $130,000 he made to his campaign. After his expenditures, he had $32,000 in his account.

A treasurer's race is supposed to be about financials, but who knew this one would focus so much on campaign, not public money?