Posted: May 25, 2005


Brady says bring it on

No doubt it would be wrong to say that M. Jane Brady, the three-term Republican attorney general, is running scared, because Brady does not scare.

She much prefers to stare down others no matter who they are -- even a formidable array of state Supreme Court and federal judges, clashing with them in celebrated cases over the death penalty, a waiting period for abortions, rent caps for mobile home tenants and prisoner release, winning some, losing some, but always taking it personally and defiant to the end.

Still, if Brady did scare, it would look a lot like what is going on now, because she is campaigning already, as though she was scared.

No politician ever should take an election lightly, but Brady has good reason to be running hard -- and not just because she barely kept her office in 2002 when she won a three-way race with 48 percent of the vote.

Both parties are acting as though Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, a 36-year-old lawyer who was a federal prosecutor, will be the Democratic candidate, backed by the seasoned political operation of his father-the-senator.

Beau Biden is acting that way, too, although he still is being coy about saying it. In recent weeks he has given a speech to Democrats in Seaford, gone to his party's state convention and showed up in Dover for a "Walk for Kids" charity event that also attracted U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, another Democrat with a reservation for the 2006 ticket.

Brady never has had much of a political organization or fund-raising network of her own, but she is taking steps to put both in place.

She says she is setting up a headquarters in Newark and intends to amass a campaign treasury of $800,000 to $900,000. It would more than double what she had available for her last election, when she spent about $400,000 -- which, to put it in perspective, is just about the amount that Roger D. Blevins III stole from Joe Biden's campaign without anyone even missing it.

Brady is making the rounds of party meetings, bringing herself to attention and firing up the Republican base. With neither party expecting much of a challenge at the top of the ballot to Carper or U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a seven-term Republican, the election for attorney general looks prime.

"I appreciate the intensity that everybody's been feeling," Brady told a combined meeting of the Christiana-Mill Creek Region and Newark Region Republicans earlier this month.

Brady, who shares a record of three terms with former Attorney General Charles M. Oberly III, her Democratic predecessor, is the first in the state ever to run for a fourth term. Even so, she is doing her best to come across as an underdog whom voters should root for.

In her stump speech Brady, who is 54, talks about being the oldest of seven children in a family of such modest means that she was born in a Wilmington housing project before moving first to a farm in Smyrna, where the family had to grow its own food, and then to Newark. The finances were such that the siblings shared gym sneakers that were snug for the big ones and roomy for the little ones, Brady says, and she put herself through law school at Villanova by working three jobs, including one as a governess.

This is clearly not the life of a legacy kid, nothing like Beau Biden, who went Ivy League as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and then on to his father's law school at Syracuse University and a clerkship with a federal judge in New Hampshire, the state that is the finishing school of presidents.

Brady got into politics by running against Joe Biden for the Senate in 1990, and she clearly does not want to get out of politics by losing to his son. Nor can the Republicans afford to see her beaten. They already are down to just three of the nine statewide offices.

If the Republicans save her after building up this race so much, they may get more than they asked for. It is not for nothing that A-G, the initials for Brady's office, are said to stand for "aspiring governor."

Republicans regroup in New Castle County

The Republican Party has filled a couple of appointments in its New Castle County leadership, which has been restructured to try to end more than a decade of decline at the polls.

In place of a large and loosely organized committee, the Republicans have centralized their county operation, putting it largely in the control of the party's five regional chairs from Brandywine, Wilmington, Christiana-Mill Creek, Newark and Colonial.

The regional chairs chose a county chair, giving the post in a reward to a good Republican soldier. It went to Kelly L. Gates, a management consultant who was running for lieutenant governor in 2004 but stood aside when William Swain Lee, the gubernatorial candidate, said he wanted James P. Ursomarso to share the ticket. Gates not only got out of Ursomarso's way but worked on his campaign.

The choice for another slot on the new county committee belonged to state Chair Terry A. Strine, and he decided on the Rev. Christopher A. Bullock, the pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Wilmington.

Strine has a country house in Chateau Country, and Bullock has an urban ministry, but the two do have something in common, although it is not something they mention much these days. Once upon a time, both of them were Democrats.