Posted: Sept. 7, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Voting is about winning and losing, but it is also about making history, sometimes humdrum, sometimes memorable.

Sometimes it can even be embarrassing, like the time a brand new state representative had to resign after he was caught stealing money from his civic association or the suspicious demise of a pet rabbit owned by a candidate for state senator. "Allegations of leporicide," a newspaper columnist called it.

True stories, both of them, right here in Delaware.

Now the state is about to get another chance at history with Primary Day coming on Tuesday and Election Day following on Nov. 8.

Anything goes, but there are already situations where something has to pop -- the "known unknowns," as a certain defense secretary might say.

TWO NEW? Delaware is not big on newbies in statewide office. It tends to hang on to who it has.

It can keep them around, the way it kept Joe Biden and Bill Roth as a matching set of Democratic-and-Republican senators for nearly 30 years, or else move them around, like Tom Carper (Democratic treasurer, congressman, governor and senator), Mike Castle (Republican lieutenant governor, governor and congressman), or Matt Denn (Democratic insurance commissioner, lieutenant governor and attorney general.)

Still, the way things are in 2016, the state will have no choice except to bring on at least two new ones. There has to be someone to replace John Carney, the Democratic congressman running for governor. Ditto for someone to move into the lieutenant governor's office, which has been empty in the two years since Denn shed it for attorney general.

A double switch is really rare, like only twice before in the last quarter of a century.

It happened in 1992, when the voters made Ruth Ann Minner the Democratic lieutenant governor (on her way to governor) and Donna Lee Williams the Republican insurance commissioner. It did not happen again until 2010, when Chris Coons was elected as a Democratic senator and Chip Flowers as a Democratic treasurer.

Flowers. Well, nobody said the voters necessarily had to get it right.

A CAROUSEL OF CONGRESSIONAL CHOICES. The Democratic voters will make some sort of history on Primary Day, when they move someone a step closer to Delaware's only seat in the House of Representatives.

Lisa Blunt Rochester would not only be in line to become the first member of the state's federal delegation not to be male and white, but also to get Delaware off the dwindling list of states, along with Vermont and Mississippi, that have never sent a woman to Capitol Hill.

Bryan Townsend, all 35 years of him, would steal a march on the rest of the Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000, as the first of his generation in Delaware to win statewide office.

It somehow would be wrong not to mention Sean Barney. He has the distinction of being a rare candidate with two hearts, the one he was born with and the Purple one he got with the Marines.

LEGISLATIVE LONGEVITY. Whatever happens at the polls, Harris McDowell will be joining Bob Gilligan, a Democratic ex-speaker, as the only legislators to last for 40 years in Dover.

McDowell, a Democratic state senator since 1976, would surpass Gilligan and set a new record if he gets by both a Democratic primary opponent and a Republican candidate running against him.

A DATE THAT COULD LIVE IN NEW CASTLE COUNTY. Tom Gordon, the Democratic county executive, could be the first to be elected to four terms because of a law that allows a New Castle County executive to hold the office for two consecutive terms, leave for at least one term, return for another two in a row, and so on.

Four terms. Not that anyone is likely to confuse Gordon with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

A POLITICAL SCIENCE TEST. If there is a First Law of politics in this state, it would have to be what Jim Soles, the late professor emeritus of political science from the University of Delaware, once said: "You do not embarrass the electorate."

Not anyone who wants to be re-elected, that is.

Soles' First Law is about to be tested again on Primary Day in Wilmington, where Dennis Williams is up for a second term as the Democratic mayor.

All Williams has done is be in charge when the city got slammed as "Murder Town USA" and not show up anyplace so often that he turned himself into the human equivalent of Brigadoon.