Posted: Aug. 19, 2004


Tom & Tom

While U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper was lunching Wednesday at the Wilmington Riverfront, he ran into Thomas S. Neuberger, a warrior of a Republican opponent whom Carper beat in 1986 as a Democratic congressman.

There was not so much as a cold stare between them. Instead, they greeted each other like long lost friends, asking after their families and chatting about a favorite school principal for their sons. Only in Delaware.

Since 1986, Neuberger has gone on to become the patron lawyer of long-shot causes, taking on the state police for aggrieved troopers and also representing Lynda R. Maloney and her sister, the most famous library temps in New Castle County.

Carper has gone on to do, well, more of what he was doing back then. Even though his Senate term is not up until 2006, he is in campaign mode, helping Democratic candidates inside and outside Delaware.

At home Carper is having more of those inbred Delaware experiences. He is working with Brian J. Bushweller, an aide who is running for the state Senate in Dover, and with Teresa L. Schooley, a candidate for state representative in Newark. Her Republican opponent is Paul J. Pomeroy, who happens to be the son-in-law of retired Professor James R. Soles, a Democrat whose 1974 congressional campaign was Carper's entry into state politics.

Carper also is making a rare foray into a Democratic primary by backing Matthew P. Denn for insurance commissioner. Denn, a lawyer, used to be the counsel to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who is supporting him, as well. Denn has not yet been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in finding something that Carper and Minner can agree on.

Around the country Carper is doing his part to elect centrist Democrats to the Senate. He is helping candidates in Alaska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida -- with a particular interest in Alaska. The election there has overtones of his own 2000 race, because Tony Knowles, a former Democratic governor, is challenging a Republican incumbent.

Carper also has something of a personal interest in North Carolina, where his wife Martha grew up. As a matter of fact, Martha Carper still owns property there, including a farm with a small tobacco crop. It was enough for Tom Carper to abstain recently from a Senate vote on a buyout for tobacco farmers.

The tobacco is a departure for Carper, who was the vice chairman of the American Legacy Foundation, an anti-smoking group, when he was governor. It must be one of those only-in-Carolina things.

Married to politics

The marriage was performed by the Republican candidate for governor. The best woman was the Republican national committeewoman. The guests included the Republican congressman and a cousin of the Republican president.

It all happened at a wedding Wednesday evening at -- where else? -- Delaware Republican headquarters in Wilmington.

"This is a first," said William Swain Lee, the gubernatorial candidate able to officiate as a retired judge.

The groom was Richard L. Smotkin, a talented political operative who was the campaign manager in 2002 for Attorney General M. Jane Brady. The bride was Susana Lambour, who is from Guatemala but has family near Philadelphia, which is where the couple met in late 2001. He is 31, she is 26. In addition to this civil ceremony in Delaware, they will have a religious one next summer in Guatemala.

Rick Smotkin has been out of the area for 17 months since he shut down operations for Brady, who is, to put it politely, a demanding candidate. Perhaps a very demanding candidate. Or even a very, very, very . . .

Once Brady barely pulled off a win, far from the smashing victory that should go with a third term, Smotkin did the sensible thing, which was the equivalent of fleeing to the foreign legion. He signed up for the International Republican Institute, which fosters democracy around the world.

Smotkin was sent to East Timor, an island nation in Southeast Asia, where he caused only one international incident. The institute printed a children's book that tried to make the country's leaders appealing by drawing them as monkeys. It happened to be particularly insulting in their culture. The leaders were not amused, but it passed.

Smotkin is back now, ready to start a job in government relations with Comcast in Philadelphia. He and his new wife essentially had their wedding trip first, touring 12 different countries while overseas. He proposed at the Great Wall of China.

There were about 35 people at the ceremony at Republican headquarters, transformed within hours beforehand from a typical campaign operation that looked like the aftermath of a frat party into office chic, fit for a wedding cake and champagne.

The groom was escorted down the aisle by National Committeewoman Priscilla B. Rakestraw and the bride by her aunt. Among the well-wishers were U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, presidential cousin Elizabeth Walker Field, state Chairman Terry A. Strine, state Chairman Emeritus Basil R. Battaglia, New Castle County Co-chairman Thomas S. Ross and James M. Geddes, a Wilmington lawyer who brought Smotkin home by connecting him with Comcast.

The attorney general was not at the wedding. Maybe it was those "Bill Lee for governor" stickers that Smotkin put on his SUV last year, pasting over the ones for Brady's attorney general candidacy, while she harbored thoughts about running for governor herself.

"You've seen it all in politics now," Ross said.