Posted: Feb. 7, 2003
POLITICS ON THE CUTTING EDGE
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
A New Castle County Democratic Party
fund-raiser, held Thursday night, turned into a police report.
When state Sen. Karen E. Peterson was ready to
leave, she discovered the two right tires slashed on her Toyota Camry with its easily identifiable, gold "K.E.P."
legislative license plate.
The political event was held in Peterson's 9th
Senatorial District at the Plumbers & Pipefitters union hall on
Newport Pike near Newport. Peterson endured a rancorous Democratic
primary election that split the labor vote, and Victoria "Vikki"
Bandy, the campaign manager for Peterson, blamed the malicious
mischief on lingering bad blood.
"They need to grow the hell up and get over
it," Peterson said.
The evening had begun in wry humor. It was a
rescheduled event that had been snowed out during the December
holiday season, and with snow predicted for later that night, New
Castle County Democratic Chairman John D. Daniello was taking some
ribbing, including a suggestion that he schedule the next holiday
party for Christmas Eve, so at least there could be a White
After the vandalism, however, Daniello's mood
turned black. He was so infuriated he said he didn't trust himself
to comment. Bandy said Daniello took $80 from his pocket to cover
the towing costs for Peterson's car.
Kenneth W. Boulden Jr., the New Castle County
Democratic clerk of the peace, offered Peterson and Bandy a ride to
retrieve another vehicle and also some advice they took to heart.
"He said, no matter how many tires they slash,
she's still the senator," Bandy said.
The state police came out to investigate, and
whoever was responsible faces a raft of charges, if caught. Bandy
said the charges included intimidation, reckless endangering,
terroristic threatening, harassment and assault.
A trooper initially thought the brake line had
been cut, along with the tires, because of fluid under the car, but
a mechanic who inspected the car later said it was intact, Bandy
The 9th Senatorial District has seen the
rougher side of politics before. In the 1982 election, the
Republican candidate's pet rabbit, named Gonzo, was found dead in
its cage outside the house. There was union rivalry in that race,
Peterson's emergence in the district has been rather eventful.
A former two-term New Castle County Council president, she walked
away from elected office in 1988 and focused on her administrative
job in the state Labor Department. Although accounts differ on a
cause, she was replaced as director of the Division of Industrial
Affairs shortly after Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a fellow Democrat, took
office in 2001.
It impelled Peterson to try for the Senate
seat being vacated by President Pro Tem Thomas B. Sharp, a Democrat
who represented the district since 1974. She faced Timothy P.
Shelton, who was backed by Minner and her labor allies, but Peterson
pulled off a victory with labor ties of her own, including her
father, retired AFL-CIO President Edward F. "Pete" Peterson.
Peterson polled 56 percent in the primary and
won the general election against Republican Kevin L. Wilkes by
winning 58 percent of the vote.
In her first weeks as a senator, Peterson
discovered new fallout from the primary. Sharp, who backed Shelton,
had drained his legislative roadwork account of $457,716. Not only
had Sharp left her nothing, but some of the projects he financed
were outside the district and benefited the vicinity of his summer
home in Fenwick Island. There were, for example, improvements for
the Fenwick Island Light House and street repaving in Keen-wik,
where Sharp has his house.
With the latest incident, Peterson's travails
clearly are continuing. Her car was parked on the perimeter of the
union hall's lot. Next time, maybe Peterson should park under a
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