Posted: March 3, 2004




Paul G. Clark, a Newark Democrat who really, really wants to get elected in New Castle County, has emerged as the second candidate in his party to become serious about running for County Council president.

Clark showed he meant business Tuesday evening by holding a combination announcement/fund-raiser that brought about 100 people willing to write checks for $100 to his campaign.

The setting at the Iron Hill Brewery on the Wilmington riverfront proved to be nifty little choice for Clark. Because the brewery is a franchise that began in Newark and expanded to Wilmington, the event managed to link the city where the candidate's home turf is to the city where great gobs of Democratic votes are. (The gathering also joined politics to alcohol, but that is an ironclad connection too obvious to dwell on.)

This race is Clark's second run for county government, where he already has demonstrated his commitment by serving as the vice chairman of the Board of Adjustment, which has a say in land use. He lost a County Council race in 2002, drawing 46 percent of the vote against Republican William J. Tansey.

Clark, 47, is a lifelong county resident who grew up in Boxwood, near the General Motors plant, graduated from the old Conrad High School and the University of Delaware and now manages Boscov's Department Store.

Clark does not have the Democratic field to himself. Dianne M. Kempski, a county row officer, declared her candidacy last month. County Councilman Penrose Hollins has said he plans to announce next month.

The Republican side is less complex. The nominee is expected to be Ernesto B. Lopez, a political newcomer the leadership would like to add to the party's farm team, although Lopez may have to get by a modest primary with Gary L. Bowman, who lost a previous primary for the council presidency four years ago.

One measure of the seriousness of a candidate is how many officeholders, party officials and other candidates show up to watch the announcement, even though an appearance is not necessarily an endorsement. Clark got a passing grade on the attendance.

While party officials stayed away because of the looming primary, the event drew Christopher A. Coons, the incumbent who is running for county executive, and two officeholders from Clark's Newark base in Councilwoman Karen G. Venezky and state Sen. David P. Sokola. In addition, Councilman J. Robert Woods attended, as did three council candidates -- Paul H. Morrill Jr., Timothy P. Sheldon and David L. Tackett.

There was one last way Clark showed his seriousness. Although party leaders would prefer to unite behind a single candidate, Clark served notice that he would not be the one to step aside.

"There will be a primary for this position," Clark said.


After five years as the Kent County Republican chairman, Patrick W. Murray intends to tell party members Wednesday evening he is resigning the post, although not leaving politics.

Murray has decided to give elected office a try. He wants to challenge Democratic Commissioner P. Brooks Banta for the Levy Court, the county's governing board. If asked, Murray also will acknowledge he is thinking ahead, if successful, to a possible 2006 race against state Sen. Nancy W. Cook, a Democrat who has been a Legislative Hall fixture since 1974 and a power player who co-chairs the Joint Finance Committee.

Murray expects to make his resignation effective May 17, after the Republican state convention scheduled for May 15. Kathy Amalfitano, who has served as the vice chairwoman for five years with Murray, will become the interim chairwoman until the county Republicans decide how they want to fill the position.

No doubt Murray's Levy Court campaign will be an assault of heavy artillery. He is not known for doing anything gently. A former FBI man who also has been an MBNA executive and a public safety secretary in the Castle administration, Murray has built his reputation by making the Kent County Republicans a force in the party.

Murray's annual Lincoln Day dinners have grown so big, attracting more than 500 people, that they have come to be regarded as a statewide event. He entered party lore four years ago when the Kent County turnout in a gubernatorial primary saved the candidacy of John M. Burris, the endorsed candidate who barely beat William Swain Lee. When Lee decided to run again for governor in 2004, one of his first acts was to recruit Murray.

Despite all the bombast and bombs-away that Murray is known for, he promised a fair fight. "I think the world of Brooks Banta. There won't be anything below the belt in this campaign," he said.

Murray had one more promise for the county Republicans he has led. "I'll make them all proud of me. I'll work very, very hard," he said.


If Matthew P. Denn does not get elected insurance commissioner, the people attending his fund-raisers are suggesting he might want to try stand-up comedy, instead.

Denn, a Democratic lawyer who was counsel to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, spoke last week to about 75 people gathered at the Brandywine Hundred home of one of his partners at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor.

Denn introduced the crowd to Michele, his wife of 18 months, saying all sorts of wonderful husbandly things about her -- until the end. Then he conceded that he did have one complaint about her.

"It's constructive criticism," Denn said. "She has not yet maxed out to the campaign."