Posted: April 12, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A college of Democratic cardinals met Monday, and not unlike the real cardinals who are searching for papabili, someone who is papal material, the Democrats are after chairabili.

About a dozen Democrats, including party leaders and either statewide officials or their representatives, gathered at their state headquarters near New Castle and came up with a half-dozen possible candidates for a new state chair.

No one on the informal list has expressed much enthusiasm for what universally is regarded as a thankless job, which comes with no pay and much blame, so there is still ample opportunity for the field to change.

"If anybody wants to do it, they immediately rise to the top of the list," quipped one Democratic insider.

The names are supposed to be secret, but this is political, not papal, and they were out quicker than anyone could say, "Where's my BlackBerry?"

As ecumenical as ever, the Democratic leadership put together a list that was diverse in gender, geography and heritage. In alphabetical order, it is:

John D. Daniello, the New Castle County Democratic chairman; Susan S. Edwards, a Kent County Democrat who was an aide to U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper; Robert F. Gilligan, the House minority leader from New Castle County; Theopalis K. Gregory, the Wilmington Democratic chairman and city councilman; James F. Paoli, the New Castle County Democratic vice chairman; and Harriet Smith Windsor, the secretary of state from Sussex County.

The election of a new chair is about a month away, to be chosen at a state convention scheduled for May 14 in Dover. The new leader, who will serve for four years, will replace Richard H. Bayard, a two-term chairman who has held the post since 1997 and decided not to run again.

Only Edwards is saying she absolutely does not want to become the state chair, although she would like to be one of the party's two vice chairs. "You can take me off the list," she said.

Windsor sounded as though she might be able to be talked into it. The others either were not talking at all or not talking for the record. The ones who seem to be experiencing the most pressure to consider taking the assignment are Gilligan, Paoli and Windsor.

In addition, Michael Houghton, a Wilmington lawyer who was Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's campaign finance chairman, has not ruled out his availability.

"I'm interested in seeing who else is interested," Houghton said.

"Interested," however, may be setting the bar too high. At this point, someone simply "resigned" to the post may have to do.