Posted: Jan. 12, 2004
SCRAMBLE FOR INSURANCE
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Peter K. Schaeffer, a Dover
Republican with insurance experience, said Monday he is
interested in filling the void on his party's ballot that yawned
unexpectedly when three-term Insurance Commissioner Donna Lee
Williams took herself out of the race, although it appears that he
will have company in a wide-open field.
Since Friday afternoon, when
Williams pulled out, Republican Party officials say they have heard
from five possible candidates, none of whom state Chairman Terry A.
Strine was willing to identify.
Two of them, however, have
gone public themselves -- Schaeffer and Jeffrey E. Cragg, the New
Castle County Republican co-chairman who is a businessman with
"Things are moving fast,"
Strine said. "There is not a dearth of qualified candidates. I have
encouraged them all to pull their thoughts together, give us their
campaign plan, their organization, their budget and how they're
going to raise the money."
Strine said the party would
prefer to settle on a candidate without resorting to a primary and
would set up a committee to try to sort out the field.
The 2004 election for
Delaware insurance commissioner broke open without warning last week
with Williams' withdrawal, although it already was being regarded as
a race to watch because the Republicans had concerns about Williams
and the Democrats have a primary looming.
Williams was coming off a
modest showing from the 2000 election, when she polled only 53
percent of the vote, and she also was facing the twin pressures of
some dissatisfaction within her own party and an energetic
Democratic opponent in Matthew P. Denn, who recently announced he
had collected $123,000 in contributions in the early going.
Williams' candidacy was
troubled enough that Cragg, a Brandywine Hundred Republican, has
been mentioned for nearly a year as a possible substitute. A
candidate in a legislative primary in 2000, Cragg is the son of
Ernest E. Cragg, the Brandywine Hundred Republican chairman.
Despite the party's
misgivings, Williams said she was stepping aside not because of
political considerations but because it was time for her to put her
family first. A Dover attorney before running for office in 1992,
Williams and her husband John, also a lawyer, have a nine-year-old
The Democratic field
includes not only Denn, a Wilmington lawyer who was counsel to
Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, but also Karen Weldin Stewart, who
was the 2000 nominee.
Meanwhile, the Republican
field expanded with Schaeffer's interest. After working in the
Insurance Department for three years beginning in 1992, Schaeffer
became an independent contractor monitoring insurers' financial
solvency and market conduct for state regulators in Delaware,
Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Guam, and he also picked up a
law degree from Widener University, he said.
Schaeffer, like Cragg, has
family ties to Republican politics. His brother is Smyrna Mayor Mark
G. Schaeffer, a past Kent County Republican chairman and 2002 state
Senate candidate. Pete Schaeffer says he has lined up Constantine F.
Malmberg III, a Dover lawyer who is also a Kent County GOP
ex-chairman, to run his campaign.
"I think I'm qualified for
this. I've essentially been regulating insurance companies for the
last eight years. My name is known in the industry," Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer and Cragg both say
they are willing to work with Republican Party officials in the
effort to avoid a primary. Strine, the state chairman, says he is
urging all interested candidates to come forward by the end of the
month so the winnowing can begin.
"I've told them all, no
maybe's," Strine said.
RETURN TO ARCHIVES
RETURN TO COVER PAGE