Posted: April 27, 2003; Updated: April 28, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

Terry A. Strine, a Republican backbencher who believes in his party, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, has emerged out of nowhere as a likely candidate to fill a perilous leadership gap that opened when state Chairman J. Everett Moore Jr. unexpectedly decided to step aside.

Strine is telling party leaders he is willing to stand for the chairmanship at the state convention, scheduled for May 17 in Dover, when Delaware Republicans gather to elect someone to the post for a two-year term.

"I do not seek power, glory or my name in lights. I would be delighted if someone more capable stepped forward, although I certainly have a passion for the success of the party," Strine said during a telephone interview Sunday evening. "I have the time and the energy to commit myself to the party, if that's what everybody wants. It's not something I'm seeking."

Strine made his first public pronouncement about the chairmanship Monday evening at a meeting of the Brandywine Region, one of the seven geographical divisions in the state Republican Party.

"I am willing to take it on. In fact, I am enthusiastic to take it on," he said. "I believe I am going to be able to help with your help."

Until this weekend, the state GOP was looking at a looming void in its leadership -- ever since Moore stunned his membership in March by saying he would not seek a second term -- but events moved quickly to change the situation.

The opportunity opened for Strine when National Committeewoman Priscilla B. Rakestraw, who was the last big name contemplating the post, notified party officials by e-mail that she had decided against it.

"I am honored to be the national committeewoman and believe that I can best serve our party, our officeholders, our candidates -- and my family -- by continuing in this position," she wrote.

With that decision, Rakestraw followed state Vice Chairman John R. Matlusky and Kent County Chairman Patrick W. Murray, both of whom also received consideration, out of the field of potential candidates. Instead, Strine's name was circulated.

Whether or not others express interest remains to be seen. Newark Regional Chairman Michael Ramone also was being mentioned, and as of Sunday evening, Brandywine Region Chairman Ernest E. Cragg was unsure about what would happen at his meeting 24 hours later.

"Terry requested to speak, so that will happen. There may be others. This is all happening pretty fast," Cragg said.

Ramone did show up at the meeting, but he used it as a forum to bow out. "The Republican Party needs to come out of our state convention unified," Ramone said. "Terry, I'm 100 percent supporting you."

Republican leaders are signaling their acceptance of Strine in the party's top spot.

Moore said, "He does have quite a bit of support. He is an idea guy and a doer. There would be some weeks that I would get three memos from him. He's got unbelievable energy, he's got the resources, and he's likable."

Rakestraw said, "If Terry Strine becomes chairman, he will have my unqualified support. He's innovative, he's a success in the business world, and he has strong Republican principles."

Strine, 65, is a Wilmington businessman who runs Investors Realty Inc., a property management firm with 45 employees. He has worked closely with Moore and made his mark in the party by creating the Republican Leadership Breakfasts, once-a-month meetings with speakers. He also writes a column for Elephants Heard, the Republican monthly newsletter.

He describes himself this way: "I'm a passionate family guy. I'm a principled conservative. I share the beliefs of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice. I believe in the Big Tent. Republicans have more in common with each other than they do with the other party."

He knows what his two major projects would be, if he does become chairman. "Supporting George W. Bush and electing a governor are projects one and two," Strine said.