Posted: Sept. 3, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The problem with the candidates for lieutenant governor is they look like they should be running for state senator. Tops.

The candidates could be eyeballed Saturday at their first collective appearance at the Sussex County Democratic Jamboree, an annual end-of-summer gathering at Cape Henlopen State Park.

It was like a debutante ball without the white gloves. Also they got to goggle at the vice president.

There were five of them, although there is possibly a sixth in waiting. The Republicans do not have any candidates for lieutenant governor yet, so this is what the field is.

Of all the races on Delaware's statewide ballot in 2016 -- the congressional seat, governor, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner -- it is the one for lieutenant governor that has candidates declaring early and often.

All Democrats. No Republicans. How not so very strange.

It sure looks like people think it would be a good idea to run with John Carney, the congressman who is expected to be the Democrats' candidate for governor -- if Carney would just announce already -- but maybe not so good to run with Colin Bonini or Lacey Lafferty, not exactly the second coming of Caesar Rodney on the Republican side.

Three of the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor were county officials. That would be Brad Eaby, who is a Kent County Levy Court commissioner, Greg Fuller, who used to be the Sussex County register of wills, and Ciro Poppiti III, who is the New Castle County register of wills.

Two of them were city officials, namely, Kathy McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, and Sherry Dorsey Walker, a Wilmington councilwoman.

There is a place for candidates like that to run for, and it is called the General Assembly.

Plenty of local officials have gone to Legislative Hall -- from Patti Blevins, the Democratic president pro tem who used to be the mayor of Elsmere, to Sean Lynn, the Democratic rookie representative who came off the Dover City Council.

But lieutenant governor? The famous heartbeat away?

It can be an office that is taken lightly, but not the officeholder, not with the voters consistently showing they regard lieutenant governor as an audition for governor.

The last three lieutenant governors, all Democrats, were Ruth Ann Minner, John Carney and Matt Denn. It would hardly be a surprise if they turned out to be the immediate past governor, the next governor and a future governor.

Before them, Bert Carvel and Sherman Tribbitt, both Democratic governors, and Mike Castle, a Republican governor, were lieutenant governors, too.

The voters do not put just anyone in there, even if they did not mind taking someone out of there. They apparently thought more of Denn than they did of the office he held, because they elected him attorney general in 2014, midway through his second term.

It means the state is without a lieutenant governor until a new one is elected in 2016, because the state constitution does not provide a way to get a replacement to fill a vacancy.  

Voters eying the current field of candidates might well be asking themselves, is that all there is? The answer is, probably not, particularly because there does not seem to be a front-runner among them.

The Jamboree was a clue that at least one other candidate could get into the race, because Bethany Hall-Long, a Democratic state senator, was there, although she was saying nothing.

"They've asked me to talk as a state senator," she said.

Still, it sure was curious the only legislators at the Jamboree were the three being mentioned for statewide office, namely, Hall-Long for lieutenant governor, and Bryan Townsend and Bryon Short for congressman, if Carney would just announce already.

Lieutenant governor could be a good race for Hall-Long. Since the Republicans do not have a candidate, her husband would not have any of their campaign signs to take down.