Posted: Feb. 18, 2004
PETERSON'S TIRES GET IT
AGAIN, AND SO DO GILLIGAN'S
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Almost exactly a year ago,
state Sen. Karen E. Peterson's tires were slashed while she was
attending a New Castle County Democratic fund-raiser. It was an
anniversary she did not particularly want to observe, but someone
made sure she did.
Peterson's tires were
vandalized again Tuesday evening while she appeared at a civic
association meeting in her Stanton area district, and this time she
was not alone.
State Rep. Robert F.
Gilligan, a fellow Democrat whose district overlaps with Peterson's,
went to the same meeting and had his tires punctured, too. No one
else's tires were damaged.
Both legislators' cars bore
the General Assembly's distinctive gold license plates with the
lawmakers' initials on them. Peterson lost all four tires to what a
car mechanic said was an attack by an ice pick, and Gilligan lost
two, the front passenger-side tire he noticed at the time and
another that went flat after his car was towed, although he was
The New Castle County Police
are investigating, and Sherry L. Freebery, the county's chief
administrative officer who used to be the police chief, said a dog
brought to the scene picked up a scent.
Both lawmakers are taking
the malicious mischief-making philosophically, Peterson perhaps a
little more so than Gilligan. "She's used to it. This is all new to
me," Gilligan said.
The evening began in a
routine way for the two legislators. The Murray Manor Civic
Association, which is mostly retirees, was having its monthly
covered-dish supper for about 40 people at the Farmhouse, a
remodeled farmstead located in the community and usually rented out
for wedding receptions, according to A. Bruce Frederick, the civic
Peterson was invited to the
meeting to show a video she had of the flooding last September in
nearby Glenville. Her appearance was announced in a flier that
circulated throughout the community.
Peterson has grown cautious
about parking since Feb. 6, 2003, the day two of her tires were
slashed outside a Democratic event at the Plumbers & Pipefitters
union hall near Newport, also in her district. When she arrived at
the civic association meeting, she deliberately drove up to a light
by the front door.
"I made up my own parking
place," she said.
The legislators did not plan
to stay long, because they also were to meet with another civic
association that same evening. Gilligan figured they were inside
from 6:50 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. He was the first to leave. When he
noticed a flat tire on his car, he went to Peterson to ask for a
ride to the next event.
"She looks at her car. It's
sideways," Gilligan said. "I liked the meeting up to that point. It
was good company and good food."
There is no telling why the
legislators were targeted. Gilligan, the minority leader in the
state House of Representatives, is the dean of the chamber where he
has served since 1972 and where the weapons of choice are more
typically the double cross or the stab in the back, not a jab to the
tire. The last two times Gilligan ran for re-election, in 2000 and
2002, he did not even have an opponent.
Peterson has had more tumult
in her return to politics. A two-term County Council president in
the 1980s, she left public office to concentrate on her
administrative job in the state Labor Department until she lost it
to infighting after fellow Democrat Ruth Ann Minner became governor
Peterson charged back into
politics in 2002 by going for a legislative seat made available by
the retirement of Thomas B. Sharp, a Democrat who was the Senate
president pro tem. She won a rancorous Democratic party that split
the union vote by beating Timothy P. Sheldon, who had the backing of
both Minner and Sharp, and then defeated Republican Kevin L. Wilkes
in the general election by getting 58 percent of the vote.
When Peterson's tires were
cut last year, lingering bad blood from somewhere was blamed, and it
was this time, too. "We think it's just some political backlash,"
said Frederick, the civic association president.
Peterson is considering a
race for governor against Minner and is not about to be put off by
this second round of flattened tires.
"I have to run for
governor," Peterson quipped. "I need police protection."
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