Posted: Aug. 22, 2003
HANGING TOM CARPER
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner
unveiled the official gubernatorial portrait last week for Thomas R.
Carper, and no, she did not pin it to the tail of the donkey poster
she keeps in her office to zing state officials who are out of
Carper and Minner had their
ups and downs when he was the governor and she was the lieutenant
governor from 1993 to 2001 in what was more a marriage of political
convenience than true love, even though both are Democrats.
Still, the portrait
presentation on Thursday, Aug. 14, in Dover was a gracious occasion,
the sort of thing that Delawareans expect from their officeholders
to preserve the self-image that politics here is better than in
other places, like California, perish the thought.
"It is indeed my pleasure,
having served with him, to be here," Minner said.
The hour-long ceremony
climaxed at 11:43 a.m., when a Delaware-blue drapery with blue and
gold drawstrings was removed to reveal the portrait, hanging outside
the governor's office on the second floor of Legislative Hall.
It shows Carper, now a U.S.
senator, leaning against the governor's desk with the U.S. and
Delaware flags flanking him. His arms are folded, and he is wearing
a gray suit and red tie. What is not there is a window that in real
life is behind the desk -- replaced by artistic license in this
rendering with a shade-colored wall.
Yes, it does look like him.
The portrait was painted during the last year by Stephen Tanis, an
Arden artist, who accomplished the likeness by building his artwork
around the feature it is impossible to miss on Carper. "He's got a
very strong jawline," Tanis said.
The portrait cost $17,000
and was brought in under budget at Carper's insistence, according to
Susan S. Edwards, the aide who supervised the project. It joins a
long line of paintings of former governors, which the state has been
collecting since 1898. By tradition the portrait of the immediate
past executive hangs outside the governor's office, and the earlier
ones are shifted down the corridor.
The practice has created a
little-known trove of famous artists in Legislative Hall. It
includes Jamie Wyeth's portrait of Democratic Gov. Charles L. Terry
Jr. (1965-1969) and George A. "Frolic" Weymouth's painting of
Republican Gov. Pierre S. du Pont (1977-1985), as well as Charles C.
Parks' bust of Gov. Russell W. Peterson (1969-1973) in a
nonconforming sculpture. Typical Peterson. This is someone who was
elected as a Republican but became a Democrat in 1996.
Minner may be the governor
now, but the portrait presentation occurred on Carper time. She is
punctual. He is terminally tardy. The event started about 20 minutes
late. Even so, Minner's "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" game with the
tails showing the faces of government officials remained stowed
The event drew about 75
people, and it was a heavily Carper crowd. The man who was elected a
treasurer, congressman, governor and senator always has had a
reputation for going his own way in state politics. It is something
that has made him popular with the voters, who have elected him to
statewide office a record-setting 11 times, but not so much with the
politicians outside his circle. On this occasion it showed.
Only four judges showed up
-- Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland, Chancellor William B.
Chandler III, Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr., who was Carper's
legal counsel, and Superior Court Judge Richard F. Stokes.
A half-dozen legislators
were there -- Democratic Reps. Bruce E. Ennis, Melanie L. George,
Helene M. Keeley and Peter C. Schwartzkopf; Republican Rep. Donna D.
Stone; and naturally Democratic Sen. Nancy W. Cook. It seems as
though nothing happens in Legislative Hall without Cook, a political
power who arrived as an attache in 1959 and was elected to the
Senate in 1974.
Carper called Cook "the
queen." A lot of people do.
The ceremony also served as
one of those infrequent gatherings of the state's most select group,
the living governors' club. In addition to Minner and Carper, there
were former Govs. Sherman W. Tribbitt, a Democrat who served from
1973 to 1977, and Michael N. Castle, now a Republican congressman
who was in Dover from 1985 to 1993. Also attending were Republicans
David P. Buckson and Dale E. Wolf, lieutenant governors who served
briefly as governors, Buckson in 1961 and Wolf in 1993.
Governors who did not attend
were du Pont, who was in Maine, and Peterson, who was in Colorado.
Former Gov. Elbert N. Carvel, a Democrat who served split terms in
1949-1953 and 1961-1965, sent word from his home in Laurel that he
would not be there, saying, "I'm 93 years old, and I'm not coming."
Among the governors, Castle
has been known to say that he feels like the lieutenant governor
again whenever he is around du Pont. On this day, Minner had a worse
flashback than that. Once upon a time, she was Tribbitt's
"Sherman Tribbitt just
walked into my office, and I felt like, 'Do you want me for
something, Governor?'" she said.
The speakers were Carper
insiders. They were Edward J. Freel, who was his secretary of state,
Jeffrey W. Bullock, who was his chief of staff, and James R. Soles,
a political scientist who was his entry to Delaware politics. When
Soles was a congressional candidate in 1974, Carper was his campaign
They were the sort of
speakers who could get away with ribbing Carper, and they did. "To
make art out of Tom Carper, that artist is destined for greatness,"
The only statewide official
in the crowd was Jack A. Markell, the Democratic state treasurer.
Perhaps he came to wonder when his portrait would go up. There was
no sighting of John C. Carney Jr., the Democratic lieutenant
It was said that Carney was
at a meeting that could not be rescheduled, and not that he has
despaired of ever seeing his portrait go up.
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