Posted: April 7, 2008
By Celia Cohen
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner was so pumped about the Delaware Democrats' prospects, she sounded ready to run for an encore engagement in the state Senate.
Minner spoke Saturday to about 200 party members attending a state convention at the Dover Sheraton to elect presidential delegates. With the months dwindling on her second term, the last one allowed by the state constitution, the governor did not give the impression she expects to depart for her home in Milford, never to be heard from again.
"I may be retiring come January in '09 from the governor's office, but not from the Democrat Party," Minner said.
Whatever Minner does, she has no plans at 73 years old to be the Delaware equivalent of John Quincy Adams, the president who was elected afterwards to the U.S. House of Representatives and stayed there until he collapsed on the floor and then died.
Colin Bonini, the Republican state senator in whose district Minner lives, is safe -- at least from her. Harold Stafford, a Democrat who used to be Minner's labor secretary, is running against him. The governor wants no legislative seat, no statewide party post.
"No, no, no, no, no. I am not interested in any jobs," Minner said in a brief interview. "Just going to local meetings I haven't been able to go to and staying involved."
Minner has spent 18 years in the General Assembly, eight years as lieutenant governor and almost eight years as governor, not to forget her time as a member of the Democratic National Committee or a receptionist way-back-when for Gov. Sherman Tribbitt.
With those credentials, Minner delivered the harshest indictment yet of the state Republicans, who dreamed about taking back the governorship by exploiting the Democratic rivalry between Lt. Gov. John Carney and Treasurer Jack Markell but failed so far to find a competitive candidate even to try.
"We're blessed. We have candidates. Could you imagine if I was standing here today saying, well, we've asked about 20 people to run. Nobody has enough pride in the Republican Party to be a candidate," Minner said.
Twenty people is something of an exaggeration, at least for now. If the Republicans keep on the way they have, it could wind up as a prediction.
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Joe Biden's convention speech included a shout-out that caught people's attention.
He said he wanted to thank a number of leading Democrats who gave their all for his presidential campaign. No one was surprised as he mentioned Minner and Tom Carper, his fellow senator, and John Daniello, the state party chair, but then it got interesting.
"I wanted to say thank you to so many of you sitting in this audience, and I'm not going to try to name you all, but starting with the governor and Tom and John and Tommy Gordon and -- and our current County Executive Chris Coons," Biden said, the pause before mentioning Coons relegating him to an afterthought.
It was vintage Biden to stand with Gordon, the former county executive and police chief who fought his way through a blistering federal investigation to come out of it with a misdemeanor and a vow to take on Coons in a primary. Never mind that the party establishment is with Coons.
Biden and Gordon have known each other for years and years, even before politics. Biden was just out of law school when he worked at a Wilmington law firm, now called Prickett Jones & Elliott, in the late 1960s. Gordon was the office manager.
Biden once did something similar for Mike Harkins, the Republican ex-secretary of state who went to jail for living high off the Delaware River & Bay Authority while he was the executive director. Days before Harkins was sentenced, Biden arrived late at a St. Patrick's Day charity dinner that Harkins helped to organize and called out to him, "You're the reason I'm here. I'm here for you, my friend."
Biden is fond of saying he learned about loyalty at a young age. He tells a story about being a bus safety in grade school and steeling himself to report his sister who had misbehaved. His father said it was not what Bidens do.
Biden turned in his badge, not his sister.
# # #
Statewide candidates paid $500 not to campaign at the convention.
The party wanted them to spring for a buffet breakfast, and they did -- Biden, Karen Hartley-Nagle for Congress, Carney and Markell for governor, Matt Denn and Ted Blunt for lieutenant governor, and Karen Weldin Stewart and Gene Reed Jr. for insurance commissioner.
Then the party banned them from besieging the convention-goers with political literature or stickers or other overt acts of campaigning.
The candidates went along with it, although Denn grumbled about it later on his campaign blog. He praised the staff from Democratic state headquarters for a great job and then groused, "I would give them all a pat on the back, but I am not sure if that is allowed."