Posted: Feb. 6, 2004




State Sen. Karen E. Peterson is not about to let a gubernatorial veto be the last word in her effort to keep the New Castle County Council from growing beyond its seven members.

Peterson, a Democrat who was the County Council president in the 1980s, says she will pursue an override of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's veto when the General Assembly returns in mid-March from a break for budget hearings.

Peterson is the prime sponsor of the vetoed legislation, Senate Bill 53, which would roll back an expansion of the County Council to 13 members, which is slated to begin with the 2004 election. Minner nixed the bill last Friday, saying the council should grow because the population has and also because it is too late to turn back now with new districts drawn and candidates campaigning.

"I started the bill because I thought it was the right thing to do. I feel I have an obligation to see it through," Peterson said. She had argued for the roll-back because of the expense -- estimated at $1 million the first year -- and because size does not guarantee responsive council members.

Peterson is unlikely to get the votes for an override in the Senate, although theoretically there could be enough for it. When the bill was considered last June, it passed with 13 "yes" votes -- exactly the number needed in the 21-member chamber for a three-fifths majority on an override.

Since then, times have changed. The Democratic-run Senate approved the measure almost cavalierly and sent it to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority was known to want it to die. That changed after the County Council, where the Democrats outnumber the Republicans 5-2, came up with new districts that could as much as double the Democratic contingent.

The House reversed course and passed the bill with 23 "yes" votes -- enough to send it to the governor but short the 25 votes it would take to override a veto in the 41-member chamber.

Any attempt to override has to begin in the house where the bill began, so it is up to the Senate to go first. Minner's fellow Democrats appear ready to stand with her and preserve her veto.

"There will be no override. It's unfair to the voters. They've been on notice this [expansion] is going to happen," said Sen. Harris B. McDowell III, the Democratic majority leader. He had voted for the bill before, but not now. "That was June, when there was plenty of time to let the people know what was going to happen."

Whatever the roll call, Peterson wants the override considered. "If they want to block it, that's on them. I'm going to do it even if I'm the only vote," she said.

Peterson and the governor have had their share of disputes. Peterson lost her job in the Labor Department after the Minner administration moved in, and Minner backed a candidate against Peterson in a 2002 Democratic primary for the Senate seat.

Peterson has talked about challenging Minner for governor but says the veto will not influence her thinking. "This is not about Ruth Ann, although people will say it is. It's about, can the state do better?" Peterson said. "I'm seriously considering it. At this point, it could go either way."

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Delaware Democrats had one of those good-news/bad-news experiences over the last week.

Mired in the minority in the state House of Representatives, where the Republicans hold sway by a 29-12 margin, the Democrats were targeting state Rep. Timothy U. Boulden, a Newark Republican, as someone they thought they could beat in 2004.

Boulden was re-elected two years ago by only 367 votes out of 6,089 votes cast in the 23rd Representative District, so the Democrats figured he was vulnerable if they could find an A-list candidate to run against him.

They recruited Terry Schooley, the director of Kids Count, a children's advocacy group based at the University of Delaware, and a past president of the Christina School Board.

Then the unexpected happened. Boulden took the political set by surprise by declaring on the House floor last Thursday he would not run for re-election. Although he gave as his reason a need to spend more time on his family's propane and oil business, the Democrats suspected they had scared him off.

For a week Schooley had the race to herself. Then the Republicans countered. Their candidate is going to be Paul J. Pomeroy, a marketing director and Newark GOP vice chairman who had planned to run for New Castle County Council president but quickly switched to the legislative race.

Oh, and one more thing. Pomeroy is the son-in-law of a couple of respected Newarkers -- former state Rep. Ada Leigh Soles, who held the seat from 1980 to 1992, and her husband James R. Soles, a University of Delaware professor emeritus of political science.

Jim and Ada Leigh Soles are Democrats, but they are with their son-in-law on this one. If the Kennedy clan can embrace Arnold Schwarzenegger, it can work for the Soles family, too.

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There must have been strange emanations around the governor's office of late. They afflicted Gov. Minner's staff and also William Swain Lee, the Republican who would like to take the job from her.

Minner's office sent out a press release last week to say that WDEL 1150 AM radio would air a news conference on her budget proposal. The notice read this way: "WDEL will broadcast the news conference lice" -- which is what reporters always suspected politicians thought of them.

Lee got his tongue tangled while speaking to Hockessin Republicans. He meant to say he had been to Kent and Sussex counties, but what came out is not something that can be printed without activating the parental guards on the Internet.

Suffice it to say that Lee mixed up his vowels, plugging the "u" in Sussex into Kent and the "e" in Kent into Sussex. Frankly, it is a miracle if this has not happened to someone before.

Minner's staff sent out a correction within nine minutes of the goof, saying the news conference would be broadcast "live." As for Lee, he wisely kept right on speaking, as though he had not said what he said.