Posted: March 13, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

Instead of battling it out for the chairmanship of the New Castle County Republicans, rival candidates Jeffrey E. Cragg and Thomas S. Ross brokered a last-minute compromise Thursday evening to share the leadership position as co-chairmen.

"Last-minute" is not a figure of speech. The two literally stepped outside the meeting, held in the library at St. Mark's High School in Wilmington, as the ballots were about to be distributed to the 29-member county executive committee and made the deal.

It just goes to prove that nothing concentrates the mind quite like the prospect of losing a vote.

"We decided it's going to be an awful close vote. Why walk out of here a divided New Castle County Republican Party, when we can walk out of here a united New Castle County Republican Party and really take it to them?" Ross said.

"It's a big job. We need to raise a lot of money and recruit a lot of candidates," Cragg said.

The two will share a two-year term as the head of the county organization that serves as an umbrella for five New Castle County regions -- Wilmington, Brandywine, Christiana-Mill Creek, Newark and Colonial, which covers lower New Castle County. Kent County and Sussex County also are regions, for a total of seven in the state GOP.

Cragg, who lives in Brandywine Hundred, is a businessman with insurance interests. Ross, who is from Wilmington, is a mortgage company executive.

The co-chairmen are replacing David A. Jones, a teacher who stepped aside after one term and a lackluster showing by county Republicans at the polls.

Even as U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly was launching an investigation into the Democratic administration of County Executive Thomas P. Gordon, the county Republicans in 2002 failed to pick up any seats on the County Council and lost an open race for recorder of deeds, a row office they had held.

The new power-sharing arrangement met with approval. "This is the best solution," said John Matlusky, the Republican state vice-chairman. "We're all Republicans. We're all on the same team."