Posted: May 8, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

Terry A. Strine, who is expected to become the next Republican state chairman, took steps within the last month to tidy himself up as a Delawarean and leave aside a sticky question about whether he was living across the line in Pennsylvania.

He says he does not know the answer to the question himself.

Strine is sure he is a legal Delawarean now, his residency established in an apartment above Investors Realty Inc., his property management firm at 1207 Delaware Ave. in Wilmington. It is the address to which he says he transferred his driving license and voter registration before announcing his interest in the party chairmanship last month.

Strine also owns a country home at 51 Selborne Dr., a charming little lane that branches off Delaware 52 in Chateau Country just before Pennsylvania and meanders past estates that hug the state line.

Although Strine is in the real estate business himself, he says he is unclear whether the house is located in Pennsylvania or Delaware because he never had his land surveyed.

"The state line goes somewhere through the property. I do not know, it might be Pennsylvania," he said during a telephone interview Thursday.

Strine says he bought the home in January 2002 and had a Pennsylvania real estate attorney for the settlement. He says he was told that the previous owner claimed a Pennsylvania residency but the owner before that claimed a Delaware residency.

He says he pays income taxes in both states but is unsure where he pays property taxes because they are escrowed through his mortgage.

Strine registered and voted in Delaware in the 2002 election using the Selborne Drive address -- which leads to a question about whether he should have.

"You have to vote where you sleep, or I don't think it's legal. I would say that off the top of my head. I would say that's fraud, although I don't want to sound harsh," said Frank B. Calio, the state election commissioner in Delaware.

Strine, 65, is something of a walk-on for the Republican state chairmanship. The party was left with a leadership vacuum when J. Everett Moore Jr. unexpectedly decided not to run for a second two-year term.

As a party loyalist and informal adviser to Moore, Strine became a prime candidate for the post, almost by default, after it was turned down by a number of early favorites, including Vice Chairman John R. Matlusky, Kent County Chairman Patrick W. Murray and and National Committeewoman Priscilla B. Rakestraw.

Strine's ties to Delaware go back more than 40 years. Born in York, Pa., he said he moved to Dover in 1959 after going to Franklin & Marshall College and getting a job with IBM. Except for a stint in the Coast Guard, he lived there until 1968 when he became a stockbroker and moved to Wilmington.

Before he bought the Selborne Drive house, he said he lived in Rockland Mills for 14 years. He has owned the Investors Realty property for about four years, he said.

Strine is as unrelated politically as he is genealogically from Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr., who is a Democrat.

The election for a new chairman is scheduled for May 17 during the Republican state convention in Dover. Party leaders, who said Thursday they previously were unaware of any questions about Strine's residency, did not believe on first impression that he would be derailed.

"This is the first I've heard of it," Moore said. "If he is legally living in the city and that's where he votes, then it's fine."

Rakestraw said Strine's situation reminded her of Harry G. "Hal" Haskell Jr., a Republican who was elected Wilmington mayor in 1968 with a town house in the city and a country estate called Hill Girt Farm in Pennsylvania.

"Terry Strine is a Delaware Republican, and I don't anticipate any problem. Like Hal Haskell, he has both a town house and a country home," she said.

Strine himself says Delaware is home. "I consider myself since 1959 a Delawarean. That's an emotional thing, not a legal thing," he said.