Posted: Dec. 23, 2003




When U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle married his wife Jane in 1992 as a 52-year-old Republican governor, it left former Secretary of State Glenn C. Kenton as the last of the diehard bachelors among the political class.

No one ever expected any other status for Kenton, a Republican who has practiced law in Wilmington at Richards Layton & Finger, the leading corporate law firm, since holding Delaware's most coveted appointed office under Gov. Pierre S. du Pont from 1977 to 1985.

Wonders never cease. After years and years of zealously cultivating a rakish reputation as a ladies' man of standing and savoir faire, influence and affluence, Kenton has given up his title as the most ineligible bachelor.

Not that he wants anyone to know it. His marriage to Janet Pieper was kept so quiet that even her family was not told until afterwards. It is hard to call a wedding an elopement when the groom is 59, but it was a lot like that.

Kenton and Pieper slipped away to the Eastern Shore for a ceremony on Nov. 9, going to Maryland because Kenton has a place in Oxford. At a church in nearby Easton, they were joined only by Pieper's 17-year-old son and by John E. and Lillian Burris, Kenton's longtime friends from Milford, his hometown, where Jack Burris is the chairman of Burris Foods, Inc..

Elopements usually happen a little faster, too. Kenton and Pieper met about 11 years ago, introduced by Deborah D. Hudson, the Republican state representative who is Pieper's sister.

Word of the wedding did not start to trickle out until the eve of Kenton's customary holiday party, which is one of the political and social highlights of the year. It was held Monday night at Brantwyn, an estate that was once Pete du Pont's boyhood home and now is part of the DuPont Country Club in Rockland.

 Most of the guests did not know about the marriage before they arrived, and it is likely that some left without hearing of it. The new couple was committed to dodging questions.

Castle, one of the handful who did know, tried to spread the secret. With Republican National Committeewoman Priscilla B. Rakestraw as an accomplice, he wanted to distribute matchbooks announcing the nuptials at the party, but time was too short to get them printed.

The party also happened to be the day after Kenton's 60th birthday. He never mentioned that, either.

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The University of Delaware did more than shut out Colgate University in football last Friday night for the championship at Chattanooga. It also shut out the opposition in statewide officials.

In a classic bandwagon effect common to sports and politics, Delaware officeholders went along for the victory ride to Tennessee. Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner showed up, and so did the entire congressional delegation of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Thomas R. Carper, the Democratic senators, and Castle, the Republican representative. Democratic Treasurer Jack A. Markell was there, too.

The other side failed to produce the likes of George E. Pataki, New York's Republican governor, or Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, the Democratic senators. Perhaps anything but the New York Yankees in the World Series feels like slumming.

"I think we one-upped them a little bit, although it is a bigger deal for Delaware," said Gregory B. Patterson, the governor's communications director.

Minner flew down at government expense on a state police plane, which Patterson says she does when it is cheaper than flying commercial. Biden commandeered space for the delegation -- at first class rates, under Senate rules for the use of campaign funds -- on a private plane already booked to fly a business client of Biden's brother. Markell jumped on one of those charter tours put together by local travel agencies.

Along with about 5,000 other Delawareans, the officials did not mind the Siberian weather as they watched the Fightin' Blue Hens clobber Colgate 40-0. "Nobody on our side sat down in the whole first quarter, nobody sat down in the second quarter, nobody sat down in the third quarter, and nobody sat down in the fourth quarter," Carper said. "It was an incredible air of celebration."

Minner and Biden won a couple of side bets, Minner with Pataki and Biden with Clinton, although the New Yorkers have yet to pay off.

Minner put up a three-county extravaganza of Allen Family Foods' chicken from Seaford, RAPA scrapple from Bridgeville, Grotto Pizza from Rehoboth Beach, Fifer Orchards' apples from Wyoming, Iron Hill Lodestone Lager from Newark, and Govatos chocolates from Wilmington, to New York turkey, potatoes, mixed vegetables, cider and chocolates.

Biden was set to collect New York apples, wine and produce, but it is unknown what he would have sent to Clinton. The e-mail from his office announcing the wager read: "If Colgate wins . . . well, that ain't gonna happen."

Markell, who grew up in Newark, was burning to go to the game. He wanted to take his eight-year-old son Michael -- his 10-year-old daughter Molly opted out -- because of the good time he had when his own father took him to a UD championship game at the Boardwalk Bowl when he was about Michael's age. His son got sick, however, and had to be left at home.

While the statewide officials provided moral support, state Sen. Dori A. Connor gave something more. The Republican legislator from New Castle was not only thinking about football when she made the long drive by car to the game.

Her son Brian, a UD senior, is the captain of the marching band's cymbal line and known to football fans as the big guy who arches his back like a rainbow. Realizing how cold the weather forecast was, Connor sprung for $40 for 160 hand- and foot-warmers, one for each of the four extremities for 40 members of the percussion section and the pit crew that handles the marimbas, drum set and sound effects.

"It's just being a mom. I know how cold my feet and hands have been," Connor said.

While Coach K.C. Keeler and the football players were clearly the stars, politics has a way of finding the television cameras. Minner and Biden got themselves interviewed on ESPN2, outflanking the others in yet another shutout.

"I don't even mind that Joe got on TV and we didn't," Carper said. "Well, not too much."