Posted: Sept. 9, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

State Treasurer Jack A. Markell has sent a new signal that anyone who wants to take him on will encounter a candidate determined to have the means to run for re-election next year -- and undoubtedly for another office beyond.

Markell, a two-term Democrat, will have a campaign manager as of next week, an early move that complements an even earlier one to show he had earnest money by filling his treasury last year to more than $1 million, three-quarters of it from a personal loan.

Markell has hired Erik J. Schramm, who worked on Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's re-election in 2004 and then joined her staff as a policy adviser and legislative liaison.

Minner, however, is going -- retiring to Milford at the end of her term -- and Schramm is coming, so he jumped to someone else who is. Schramm, 28, of Glasgow, is part of a rising class of political operatives being nurtured by the Delaware Democrats to run the campaigns of their new tier of officeholders.

It is a subterranean story of state politics. As the Democrats swell their elected ranks with public figures like Markell, Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., Insurance Commissioner Matthew P. Denn and New Castle County Executive Christopher A. Coons, they are bringing a new matrix of campaign personnel into the political system, too.

Schramm is one of them, along with others like Gregory B. Patterson, who was Minner's communications director and campaign manager, now a senior adviser to Denn, and Nicole Majeski, the state party's former executive director who is now on Coons' staff.

"Erik is a great addition to any campaign, especially mine," Markell said.

While Markell organizes for the election, it remains unclear who his opponent will be. The Republican Party is cultivating Robert I. Hicks, the former New Castle County auditor, but he has not committed to the race yet. Still, Hicks is keeping an eye on Markell and was interested to hear about Schramm's hiring.

"The way he's been campaigning, I didn't know he needed one. He's already acting like his own campaign manager," Hicks quipped.

Markell continues to insist these days that his sole focus is on his re-election, as he consistently deflects talk about a potential showdown with Carney for the 2008 nomination for governor -- a topic that is consuming the Democrats more and more. Still, it should be noted that Schramm brings him someone who has seen a gubernatorial campaign from the inside.

Before Schramm was hired, it was no secret that he was looking for work and had feelers out, including one to Carney, but Markell got him. In the early gamesmanship, the scoring goes to Markell, one Schramm to nothing.

Schramm put his political roots down in Delaware, getting here through the University of Delaware and serving as the president of the Delaware Young Democrats, but his family roots are in upstate New York.

It is Republican country, and Schramm grew up in a Republican farming family. Two years ago he gave campaign tips to his father, who was running as a Republican for the town council of West Sparta and its population of about 1,200 people.

Democrats here may quibble about the father's politics, but not about the son's political instincts. Dad won.