Posted: Feb. 18, 2003




State Republican Chairman J. Everett Moore Jr. was in all likelihood the first politician here to predict the President's Day snowstorm.

At the Sussex County Lincoln Day Dinner last Thursday evening, Moore left aside the dangers of Democratic governors and liberals and such to warn that a snowfall of 18 to 22 inches was on its way to Delaware, even while the storm seemed to be nothing but a faraway neon-colored gleam in a weathercaster's eye on one of those radar maps.

Moore's prediction was met with the sort of skepticism usually reserved for fish stories and politicians, including from this writer, but Moore was right on. It turned out it was not an ideal occasion to disbelieve someone who sports a beard as Lincoln-esque as Honest Abe's himself.

It also turned out that Moore had an inside track. His cousin is Jim Wilson, the owner of Wilson's General Store east of Georgetown at the intersection of Delaware 47 and 30. It is known for its sandwiches and guns -- including the .38-cailber gun the owner has on his hip -- and for its willingness to stay open around the clock when there is snow to feed hungry snowplow operators from the Delaware Department of Transportation.

By Thursday evening, the DelDOT workers had tipped off Jim Wilson to be ready for a monster storm, and he had tipped off Cousin Everett. Who knew?

Moore outpaced the governor on this one. Gregory B. Patterson, the communications director for Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, said that while some word was spreading about the snow on Thursday, the first serious conference call about it did not take place in government circles until Friday morning.

Incidentally, Minner took her own advice after she declared a state of emergency. She stayed home.

The governor was in Milford for the weekend, spending time with her sons and grandchildren who all live close by, and there she remained, Patterson said. She kept up with events through periodic conference calls and also through the firsthand accounts from her sons, who run the family tow truck business.

So make Moore a prophet in his own land. "Everybody thought I was crazy," he said, "but I had an inside source."

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If Republican moderates are to make a mark in the U.S. House of Representatives this session, one of the best known congressional observers is expecting Michael N. Castle, now in his sixth term, to lead the way.

Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, issued a challenge to Castle and other moderate Republican congressmen in a column last week in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. It was headlined, "GOP Moderates Can Impact Policy -- If They Dare."

Ornstein did not seem to think they would. He estimated there were 25 to 35 House members who could be considered Republican moderates -- enough to influence tax, budget and social policy where they differ with President George W. Bush and the conservative Republican leadership.

"Every time in the past when moderates have had the numbers and the opportunity to unite and move their party's positions and policies to the middle, they have balked, collapsing under the relentless pressure of their leaders and peers to toe the party line," Ornstein wrote.

Even though that was Ornstein's conclusion, he noted there have been occasional flashes of assertiveness from the moderates, and he singled out Castle for showing it. Calling Castle a "highly respected figure in the House," Ornstein said that Delaware's lone House member recently had criticized Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican formidable enough to be nicknamed "The Hammer."

Castle objected to a $50,000 contribution that DeLay gave in late 2002 to the Club for Growth, a conservative force known for backing conservatives against moderate Republican incumbents in primaries.

Castle's provocativeness is not exactly news in Delaware. Before he was elected to the Congress in 1992, when he was a two-term governor, it was sometimes possible to hear the Legislative Hall regulars refer to him as "Rockhead."

Long before that, as Castle himself has told the story, it was his attitude that got him into politics. As a young prosecutor who had lost a case, Castle was asked by a judge what he should do with the evidence. Castle thought he was making his suggestion under his breath, but the judge heard him.

"That's when I decided to run for the state House of Representatives," Castle said.

Castle's politics may be moderate, but no one in Delaware ever would say his disposition is.