Posted: Jan. 25, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Alan Levin was not burned in effigy Friday at a Republican Party dinner for skipping out of the governor's race last week. The Republicans always did have good manners.

Levin also skipped the dinner, probably by design but also by necessity. Earlier this week, he tripped at home and broke his ankle. Not only is Levin not running, he is seriously not running.

Bill Lee avoided the dinner, too. The retired judge who was the candidate in 2004, when his campaign put a scare into Democratic Gov. Ruth Minner, remains immensely popular in the party. There was no sense showing up and taking a chance on getting drafted, was there?

"I think I ought to keep a really low profile. I don't want to appear to grab the standard," said Lee, who was reached by telephone.

The upshot of the absenteeism was that 200 Republicans, milling about the Christiana Hilton in Stanton, spent the evening playing "Who's Got Game for Governor?"

Somebody has to take on either Lt. Gov. John Carney or Treasurer Jack Markell, whoever gets the Democratic nomination.

How about either Dick Cathcart, the state House majority leader, or Mike Ratchford, a former secretary of state, who were standing together?

Cathcart pointed at Ratchford. Ratchford pointed at Cathcart.

Any interest from Stephanie Ulbrich, a former state representative? "No," she said, "but you're the third person to ask."

Actually, the Republicans did have the perfect candidate in their midst, except for one thing. The state constitution has this way of lumping former two-term governors in with convicted felons as people who are ineligible for the job.

"I'm the one who really wants to run for governor, but I can't," said Congressman Mike Castle, the last Republican governor who was in office from 1985 to 1993.

State Republican Chair Terry Strine insisted no one was panicking. "We're not just going to rush to anyone who is breathing," he said.

Certainly there was no crowd flocking to Mike Protack, the perennial office-seeker. He did not seem to mind. His strategy of waiting out everyone else was working so far. "Perseverance can go a long way," he said.

House Speaker Terry Spence was wandering around, doing his usual political hokey-pokey. For election after election, he has put his whole self into races for higher office and then put his whole self out after putting his whole self in and shaking it all about.

For now, Spence's whole self was in, but there is a reason he is the longest-serving speaker in state history. Sooner or later, he puts his whole self out.

"I thought I'd scout around and see if there's any interest. I haven't made up my mind. I kind of enjoy it," Spence said.

If the Republicans could not resolve their gubernatorial dilemma, at least they could try to figure out whom they want for president when Delaware holds its primary Feb. 5. They took two straw polls, one for members of the state committee, the party's governing body, and one for everyone else in attendance. The results were almost identical.

The 67 state committee members who were present voted: 31 percent for John McCain, 30 percent for Mitt Romney, 29 percent for Rudy Giuliani, 9 percent for Mike Huckabee, 1 percent for Tom Tancredo, who dropped out but remains on the Delaware ballot, and none for Ron Paul.

The 115 participants in the popular poll voted: 32 percent for McCain, 29 percent for Giuliani, 28 percent for Romney, 8 percent for Huckabee, 3 percent for Paul, and none for Tancredo.

In years past, the Republicans held straw polls not just for president but for various statewide offices. Not this year. The only statewide candidate they have for sure is Mike Castle.

Perhaps they could try a raid. "Maybe we should be talking to Jack Markell," Cathcart said.