Posted: May 21, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Enough Democratic dominoes did not fall last week to knock down the standoff between Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell for the 2008 nomination for governor.

Markell was supposed to drop back and run for lieutenant governor. Insurance Commissioner Matthew P. Denn, expecting to run for lieutenant governor, was willing to regroup and campaign for re-election. Wilmington Council President Theodore Blunt, also looking at lieutenant governor, was asked to make way for Markell, as well.

Blunt was not budging, though, not even with U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper as the broker-in-chief, not even for an arrangement designed to spare the Democrats from a political rumble that could split the party for a generation.

If the dealing is not over -- and Carper says it is not -- it is on hold. The reason became clear Saturday when Blunt carried out his plans to declare for lieutenant governor with the traditional statewide tour to all three counties.

Ted Blunt's campaign is being treated by his backers not as a candidacy but a movement.

If nominated, Blunt would be the first African-American candidate already established in politics and government to run statewide for either the Democrats or the Republicans. He would be the fifth ever, following the no-chance campaigns of Democrat Cecil C. Wilson for insurance commissioner in 1970, Republican Sherman N. Miller for lieutenant governor in 1996, Micheal C. Miller for the Congress in 2000 and 2002, and Esthelda R. Parker Selby for treasurer in 2006.

Blunt's announcement at his final stop at the Wilmington campus of Delaware Technical & Community College was all about a man on a mission -- from the rousing  "Rocky" movie music, to the exuberant chant of "Ted-dy! Ted-dy! Ted-dy!" out of a noteworthy crowd of nearly 200 people, to the pointed message from the speakers.

"I'm glad Ted is running for lieutenant governor. I think it's time that happened in this state," said Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker.

There was more of the same Sunday evening from Wilmington Councilwoman Hanifa G.N. Shabazz when she appeared on "Community Crossfire," a weekly television show hosted by state Rep. Hazel D. Plant and former Councilman Norman G. Oliver, both fellow Democrats.

Shabazz called Blunt's candidacy a "test of the community."

Blunt himself made the breakthrough nature of his candidacy part of his rationale for running. "There's service. There's inclusion. There's experience," he said.

Despite the determined start, Blunt is far away from where he wants to go. The pressure from the Democratic deal making may have lifted momentarily, but it is likely to return with renewed intensity. Markell showed up for his announcement, as though it was business as usual and he was paying a courtesy call on a potential running mate, but Carney and other statewide Democratic officeholders did not.

"This is Ted's day. I think we've got two excellent candidates for lieutenant governor. When Matt announces, I'll be there, and I'm delighted to be here today," Markell said.

Even if the negotiating falls apart for good, Blunt still would encounter serious odds. There is Denn, who already has run and won statewide, including a Democratic primary, and began the year with $200,000 in his campaign treasury to Blunt's $75,000.

There is also geography. The rest of Delaware tends to harbor suspicions about Wilmington. If Blunt becomes lieutenant governor, he would be the first city official to win a statewide office in nearly half a century. The last was Mayor Eugene Lammot, elected lieutenant governor in 1960.

Wilmington is clearly and perhaps defiantly Blunt's base. In addition to Mayor Baker, former Mayor James H. Sills Jr. came to the announcement, and so did most of the City Council members, although the ones who stayed away were notable. There was no sign of Councilman Charles Potter Jr., recently seen at a fund raiser for Denn, or Councilman Theopalis K. Gregory, who doubles as the Wilmington Democratic chair.

With a milling and motivated crowd, Blunt's kickoff was as bonding as a family picnic, complete with a matriarch -- Blunt's 86-year-old mother, who could hear well enough to know he was introducing her but not exactly what he was saying about her, like her age.

Her voice was faint but so high, it sounded distinctly above the throaty rumble in the room. "Did he say how old I am?" she asked.

"No, I didn't tell them how old you are," Blunt said to a lot of laughter.

Tactful but cagey. It will take some doing if a Democratic deal is to maneuver him out.