Posted: Sept. 12, 2006


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Democratic leadership enjoyed a double dose of victory out of Delaware's primary election on Tuesday, as it watched its endorsed candidates gobble up nominations while its Republican counterpart fell short in delivering for a number of its favorites.

In a state increasingly trending Democratic, it was a stunning rebuke that exposed the Republican organization as internally weak and acutely vulnerable on Election Day on Nov. 7.

Jan. C. Ting, the endorsed Republican, nervously eked out the nomination for the U.S. Senate to quiet Michael D. Protack – but probably only until Protack, the perpetual candidate with the sour-grapes platform, decides if he wants to extend his previous pinings for governor or the Senate in 2008, or if he possibly can figure out how, both. 

Without Christine O’Donnell, a right-to-life candidate also in the Republican senatorial race and siphoning off insurgent votes, Ting would not have won. 

Dennis Spivack, the endorsed Democrat, purified his party in the ballot battle for the U.S. House of Representatives by casting out Karen M. Hartley-Nagle, even if she will be neither gone nor forgotten. 

Hartley-Nagle is a “fusion” candidate, lingering to run in November because she also filed on the Independent Party of Delaware, or as the major parties prefer to think of it, the Party of the Living Dead. 

The Independent Party ticket will include not only Hartley-Nagle, but three other “fusion” candidates who lost either Democratic or Republican legislative primaries.

No double-filer won – perhaps a sign that the primary voters, typically the most dedicated of all, wanted no parts of anyone with divided loyalties, but more likely an indication that the candidates went fusion because they knew they were going to lose, anyway.

Primary Day 2006 was conspicuous for the lack of interest it drew. Turnout was minuscule for both parties -- about 7 percent of the Democrats' 244,926 voters and about 8 percent of the Republicans' 178,366 voters.

Probably it will never be settled whether the voters’ collective yawn was caused by shifting the election from a Saturday, where it never attracted much attention either, to a workday, or by a lack of enthusiasm for the candidates themselves.

There had to be something of a what’s-the-use sentiment among voters asked to choose top-of-the-ticket candidates likely to do little but chum the waters for U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a Democratic ex-governor who has won more statewide elections than any other Delawarean, and U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a Republican ex-governor looking to extend his state record of seven House terms.

Farther down the ballot, in perhaps the most-watched race of the day, Gerald L. Brady defeated Loretta Walsh, a fellow Wilmington council member, in a Democratic legislative primary for a Wilmington-area seat vacated by state Rep. Joseph G. DiPinto, a Republican retiring after 20 years.

With the district registration leaning Democratic, the seat is regarded as the party’s best chance at a pickup in the state House of Representatives, which the Republicans control with a 25-15 majority and one independent. Those chances looked even better after the Republicans' Primary Day performance.

Still, the Republicans did help themselves by being disciplined enough to settle on Gary C. Linarducci as their candidate without a primary fight.

In the only legislative district to have primaries in both parties, state Sen. Harris B. McDowell III turned back Wilmington Councilman Charles Potter Jr. and two other challengers in the Democratic contest, all but ensuring McDowell's re-election in a heavily Democratic district largely located in the city.

Republican voters selected Gregory T. Chambers, who had his party’s endorsement, over Tyler P. Nixon, a “fusion” candidate, to run against McDowell. Chambers was the only endorsed Republican to win convincingly.

A Republican endorsement helped John Feroce slip by Barbara J. Allsop, another “fusion” candidate, but their protracted squabble and the closeness of the outcome has detracted, perhaps irredeemably, from the Republicans’ effort to unseat state Sen. James T. Vaughn Sr., an 81-year-old Democrat nearing the end of his career, in a district that spans the New Castle County-Kent County line. 

A Republican endorsement failed to carry Brian N. Moore, who lost to Nick Manolakos in a Hockessin legislative district. Manolakos has the benefit of a Republican edge in registration against Democrat Richard J. Korn in the election for a seat held for 30 years by state Rep. Roger P. Roy, a Republican who is retiring. 

Harold J. “Jack” Peterman, another endorsed Republican, also lost in a Republican legislative primary, despite being a sitting Kent County Levy Court commissioner. The nomination went to Ulysses S. Grant for the election to replace retiring state Rep. G. Wallace Caulk Jr., a onetime Republican who switched to independent last year. 

Between Caulk’s rejection of the party and the primary results, the Democrats have to like the prospects for Robert E. Walls, their candidate in November.

In the Democratic Party, the regulars had a better Primary Day. 

A Democratic endorsement helped Democrat John J. Mitchell Jr. in an Elsmere legislative district to overcome Edward F. Doyle, who did not have the party behind him but did have the Teamsters. With a serious Democratic advantage in voter registration, Mitchell is a decided favorite against Republican John Jaremchuk Jr. to succeed retiring state Rep. John F. Van Sant, a Democrat who was the House minority whip.

State Rep. Diana M. McWilliams dispatched a final “fusion” candidate by drubbing Michael R. Dore in a Democratic primary in Brandywine Hundred. It left her well-situated in her campaign for a second term against Republican W.E. “Bill” Smith. 

Victories in Democratic primaries for four legislators – state Reps. Dennis P. Williams, Hazel D. Plant and Helene M. Keeley in Wilmington and Rep. John J. Viola in Bear-Glasgow – guaranteed their return to Dover. Not one of them has a Republican opponent. 

Finally, Carl Colantuono had the Democratic Party’s backing but hardly needed it in a Brandywine Hundred district to beat Fred Jeffrey Boykin, who distinguished himself by getting arrested for an election-related threat. 

Next up for Colantuono is state Rep. Wayne A. Smith, the House’s Republican majority leader. The thrill of victory for Colantuono should be right up there with Ting and Spivack – which is to say, well, enjoy it now.