Posted: July 2, 2003




Matthew P. Denn, the governor's legal counsel, wasted no time in making good on his commitment to file his candidacy for insurance commissioner once the Delaware General Assembly ended its annual session.

The House of Representatives went home Tuesday morning about 10 minutes after midnight. The Senate left at 12:30 a.m. Denn was at the door of the election commissioner's office in Dover when it opened at 8 a.m.

He couldn't have filed any faster without breaking and entering.

Denn, a Democrat like his boss, had reasons for doing it the way he did. He wanted to downplay his personal politicking in deference to his work for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner until the legislative year was over, although he was open about his intentions to become a candidate afterwards. He is expected to remain on the gubernatorial staff until later this year.

Denn plans to continue his association with Minner by joining her on the ballot, although he may have to get through a primary to do it. Karen Weldin Stewart, the Democratic candidate in 2000, says she wants another shot at Insurance Commissioner Donna Lee Williams, a three-term Republican, after polling 47 percent of the vote.

Williams intends to run again, but there are rumblings that she also could have a primary.

Also Tuesday, Denn announced the names of three honorary co-chairs for his campaign finance committee. They are: James H. Gilliam Sr., chairman of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League; Steven J. Rothschild, a founding partner of the Wilmington law office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom; and Karen Valentine, the Democratic national committeewoman and staff representative for the public employees' union.

There is no sense having finance co-chairs without money, so before the day was out, Denn had e-mailed his supporters that he was ready and willing to take their checks. Actually, he couldn't have been more willing.

"We are happy to pick up contributions," Denn wrote.

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Kelly L. Gates, a Republican who wants to run for lieutenant governor, crossed the line for her campaign. The state line, that is.

She planned her campaign kick-off reception, which was held last week, for Philadelphia at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was an unusual way to launch a candidacy. Even former Republican Gov. Pierre S. du Pont and Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. began their 1988 presidential campaigns on home ground before making beelines for New Hampshire and Iowa.

Gates said she did it to accommodate about two dozen business colleagues who wanted to attend the $100-a-ticket event. She is with Gates and Company, a Delaware-based management consulting and investment banking firm, formed about four years ago.

How far Gates will get with her candidacy is open to question. The identity of the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., a first-term Democrat, is currently one of the great mysteries of statewide politics, along with the identity of the Democrat who will take on Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle, now in his sixth term.

Too many Republicans are being mentioned for lieutenant governor. No Democrats are being mentioned for the Congress.

Gates' fate is complicated further because William Swain Lee, all but anointed as the Republican candidate for governor, has yet to express a preference for anyone, beyond noting, "I expect to have the say."

Lee has talked to Gates. "I told Kelly, if we had a list of Top 10 names, you wouldn't be on it," he said.

Still, Lee didn't discourage Gates from trying. "What does she have to lose? Maybe she can make herself qualified to get on the list," Lee said.

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The state House of Representatives believes it set a new record with its last roll call of the 2003 legislative session. The chamber unanimously defeated a bill -- with all 41 members voting "no."

Even Rep. Bruce C. Reynolds, the Republican who was stuck with being the floor manager, voted against it.

The legislation, S.B. 167, would have expanded Delaware State University's board from 11 trustees to 13. It appeared to have support as long as the lawmakers thought the Dover-based school itself was for it and it wasn't simply the whim of prime sponsor Harris B. McDowell III, the Senate's Democratic majority leader from Wilmington.

When some trustees began phoning in protest, representatives couldn't bail out fast enough. Leading the exit was Rep. Nancy H. Wagner, a Dover Republican who had signed on as a co-sponsor. She announced she was taking her name off the bill and would vote "no."

After the vote, House veterans said they could recall two roll calls of one "yes" and 40 "no" but never a vote of 0-41. The near-unanimous defeats were for an amendment from Republican Steven H. Amick, now a state senator, and a bill from Republican Rep. Roger P. Roy for allowing liquor sales on holidays.

Roy seemed delighted to relinquish the record.

Reynolds was forced to handle the bill because of his position as the House Education Committee chairman, but he disavowed it even as he did so. He did not want the defeat to be regarded as part of his legislative record but rather as an act of God.