Posted: July 8, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Democrats did not expect to be refashioning themselves this summer, but they had to, and they did.

The party has a new vice chairman, a new executive director and a new headquarters, all as of the end of June.

"We've had a lot of changes -- one by an automobile accident, one by a resignation and one by termination of a lease," Richard H. Bayard, the state chairman, said Tuesday. "All three developments were sort of thrust upon us, but all three turned out to be happy results."

The new vice chairman is James F. Hussey Jr. The new executive director is Nicole Majeski. The new headquarters is in East Corporate Commons, located off Basin Road near New Castle.

Jim Hussey was chosen by the party's executive committee on June 23 to replace John P. "Pat" Healy, who was killed last month in a car crash downstate. Hussey will serve out Healy's term, which lasts until May 2005.

Like Healy before him, Hussey has worked with the Democratic Party and labor unions for years and comes out of Local 313 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where Healy was the business manager and Hussey is the recording secretary.

"He was the consensus candidate," Bayard said. "He represents continuity with Pat Healy."

Hussey, who lives in Mitchell Estates in Mill Creek, has been a Democratic committeeman for more than 30 years, but he says he has been involved with the party since he was in grade school in Wilmington. He credits his early interest to Mary McLaughlin, the wife of former Mayor William T. McLaughlin, a two-term Democrat who served from 1977 to 1985. Mary McLaughlin was responsible for getting Bill McLaughlin into politics, too.

Hussey has been the campaign manager for state Sen. Patricia M. Blevins, an Elsmere Democrat, and is the chairman of the 19th Representative District, where the local legislator is House Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan, a Sherwood Park Democrat. In the 2002 election Hussey helped out Carl Schnee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general -- "and sad to say, he didn't win," Hussey said.

Hussey and his wife Susanne have two sons in their 20s.

"I'm willing to take the challenge and move the Democratic Party forward," Hussey said.

 Majeski, who was serving as acting executive director, was selected for her new post by the Democratic executive committee at the same meeting that Hussey became vice chairman. She succeeds Jonathan J. Pugsley, whose brief tenure lasted from February through May. Pugsley, originally from Oregon, went to Maine to work on a referendum campaign with some friends, according to Bayard.

Majeski, a 2001 graduate of the University of Delaware, came to the state from Reading, Pa., to go to school and stayed. For her first political assignment here, she was an intern in the 2000 campaign that turned Thomas R. Carper from a two-term Democratic governor into a U.S. senator. She spent the 2002 election cycle at party headquarters as the projects director, working on fund raising, the get-out-the-vote drive, communications and event planning.

"I plan on being here," Majeski said. "I absolutely love campaign work."

Majeski, who lives in Wilmington, is presiding these days over the new Democratic headquarters, where the party moved on June 28, leaving behind the space it occupied in a Newport industrial complex for about five years.

Bayard said the party made the move because the rent is cheaper and the location is more accessible for downstaters and easier to find.

The new quarters, about 5,000 square feet, are located on the second floor of an industrial supply building in a space that was remodeled for the party's needs. It includes a conference room, a large meeting room and a bank of offices for the campaigns of Carper, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell -- but not for U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has his own campaign office in Wilmington.

Because of the second-floor location, the party had an elevator installed for its members who regard a stairway the way they do Republicans, as something to be avoided whenever possible.

The move to the new headquarters was accomplished with the help of the building trades and other unions, Bayard said. Officials on hand were Bayard himself, Carper, Carney and John D. Daniello, the New Castle County Democratic chairman.

The transition went smoothly enough for Bayard to describe it in terms rarely used in politics.

"We had a good time, and nobody got hurt," Bayard said.