Posted: July 25, 2003; Updated: July 26, 2003
Nearly a year ago Charles L. Copeland entered
Delaware politics with a flourish, knocking off a Republican state
senator in a primary on his way to claiming the seat for himself.
Now it appears that Copeland never considered that to be anything
but an opening act.
Ten days ago, this time without much of a
flourish, a new political group met for the first time with Copeland
as a prime mover behind it. The group has yet to be named, but it
does have a purpose -- to draw a new generation of conservatives
into politics and encourage them to run for office.
"For the last several years, the comment is
that the Republicans don't have a bench," Copeland said.
Copeland brings a certain credibility to this
effort. Not only did he set an example by running himself, he comes
with built-in clout. For the first meeting, for example, the speaker
was former Gov. Pierre S. du Pont, also known around Copeland's
house as Cousin Pete.
The meeting brought about 45 people to
Republican headquarters in Wilmington, although Copeland said he
doesn't envision the group will be strictly Republican as it takes
shape. He wants it to be driven more by policy than partisanship.
The membership is expected to range in age
from early 20s to mid-to-late 40s. "That's so I can stay in,"
quipped Copeland, who is 40 himself. "I've got about six years
before I have to re-evaluate that."
No matter how Copeland defines the group,
other Republicans are looking at it as one means of invigorating
their party, which is focusing these days on rebuilding an
organization and recruiting candidates as it plays catch-up to the
The Republicans made a start at it in 2002
with a strong showing in Sussex County, taking seven of the eight
state representative districts there, but it is the Democrats who
hold the governorship, both seats in the U.S. Senate and are said to
have a bench with Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., Treasurer Jack A.
Markell, New Castle County Council President Christopher A. Coons
and Beau Biden, the senator's son.
"I have urged this since before I became
chairman. It's not my program as party chairman, but I'm delighted
it's occurring. I am a big, big believer that we must have a
pipeline. If we're ever going to take over the state Senate, we're
going to need a lot of young folks," said Terry A. Strine, the
Republican state chairman.
"There is a lot of activity on a lot of
different fronts in the Republican Party in the state. I think it's
a new wave. There's a realization that having the Democrats control
everything isn't good," said James P. Ursomarso, the Wilmington
"We have to build a farm team. This is the
kind of thing we've done in the party for a long time. It has the
potential for lighting the fire. You've got to develop a bunch of
people who think there's a future in it and get them interested," du
There is naturally the possibility that
Copeland himself might like to be one of the first Republicans
coming off the bench. The party already has showcased him by giving
him a speaking role at its state convention last spring, and it
could not hurt if there was an organization of like-minded
conservatives who could help him if he helped them.
"Ninety percent of politics is being in the
right place at the right time. If the right place and the right time
don't occur, I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing," Copeland said.
If Copeland sounded circumspect about his
political future, his cousin did not. "Charlie's surely going to run
for something," du Pont said.
# # #
Thomas C. Maloney, the late Democratic
ex-mayor of Wilmington, was known for playfully turning life and
politics into performance art. The people who loved him for it have
seen no reason to stop, just because he's not around to strum his
ukulele and lock the doors to keep a party going into the night.
They decided that someone who always seemed
larger than life deserved to be remembered that way, so they
commissioned Charles C. Parks, the noted Wilmington sculptor with a
studio along the Brandywine, to do a bronze statue of Maloney, more
than seven feet tall.
Then they had to figure out a way to pay for
it. Oh, and find a place to put it. In true Maloney fashion, they
figured everything would come together -- the way the political
gridiron show he masterminded every year inevitably did -- and it
Maloney was 30 years old when he was elected
mayor in 1972 at the time the city needed a lift, four years after
the rioting that followed the killing of the Rev. Martin Luther King
Jr. Maloney left as his primary legacy the Market Street Mall as a
main street for the city with the Grand Opera House as a cultural
anchor. He was 58 when he died of cancer two years ago, his beloved
Broadway show tunes playing to pipe him out.
The statue cost $85,000, but it was going to
take about $100,000 to cover not only the price of the artwork but
also a pedestal, plaque and dedication ceremony. Naturally the first
thing to do to raise some money was plan a party.
It had to be typically offbeat, and it was.
Only Maloney's circle would throw a fund-raiser by inviting people
to celebrate his 60th birthday -- except it wasn't quite on the
right date. His birthday landed on Good Friday last year, so the
gathering was held a week earlier.
The hosts were Lynda R. Maloney, the city's
former first lady, and J. Brian Murphy, a city consultant. Lynda
Maloney also is known these days as the New Castle County aide who
has done more to publicize libraries than anyone since Marian the
Librarian in "Music Man." Murphy started in politics as a
college-age intern for Tom Maloney with the weighty responsibilities
of driving him around and taking his shirts to the cleaners, but
Murphy got hooked, anyway.
"Brian Murphy is the patron saint of this. It
could never have been done without him," Lynda Maloney said.
Last week there was another party. The
invitations called it "the 16-month anniversary of the last party"
and explained, "We had so much fun the last time, we've decided to,
as Tom would say, have just one more!"
This one essentially completed the fund
raising. It also coincided with the night that a city panel approved
a location for the sculpture, voting to place it fittingly on the
Market Street Mall near the Grand Opera House.
The statue will be dedicated sometime in
September. The city, which already has participated by donating
$20,000 toward the artwork through the Wilmington Arts Commission,
will be involved in the ceremony.
"This is a way of saying, thank you," said
Mayor James M. Baker, a Democrat who was elected to the City Council
the same year Maloney became mayor.
The sculpture shows Maloney as he was in a
photograph taken in August 1975, his jacket slung over his shoulder.
No matter the season, Maloney will be fixed in that moment, as
perhaps he should be. Wherever he was, it was summer.
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