Posted: Oct. 28, 2003
NO SWITCH THIS TIME
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
As if the new election season does not have
enough sideshows, there were feelers extended recently to see
whether Christopher A. Coons could consider bolting the Democratic
Party to run for New Castle County executive as a Republican,
Strange things happen in politics, but this
looks like it will not be one of them. Coons would prefer to limit
his switching in 2004 from New Castle County Council president after
a single term to county executive.
The speculation about Coons has been rippling
quietly of late in certain Republican circles as the party searches
for a viable candidate for an office it last won almost 20 years ago
in 1984 and did not even bother to field anyone last time against
Thomas P. Gordon, the Democratic incumbent who has reached the
Recruiting Coons was regarded as something
that could be mutually beneficial -- with the Republicans gaining a
proven vote-getter and Coons escaping from a Democratic primary with
Sherry L. Freebery, the county's chief administrative officer, in a
clash with enough bad blood already to have "Impeach Coons" t-shirts
out there in the early goings.
In an interview Tuesday, Coons acknowledged
there has been talk but said it was going nowhere.
"I have been approached by several leading
Republicans about the possibility of switching parties. I have been
too committed and too active in the Democratic Party to consider
switching," Coons said.
Coons declined to out his Republican contacts
by name. Republican State Chairman Terry A. Strine declined to
acknowledge there even were Republican contacts. "I'm not saying it
was authorized or unauthorized," Strine said.
Democratic State Chairman Richard H. Bayard
did not care if the Republicans were trying to recruit from his
side. "They've tried to switch a lot of people. They don't have a
talent pool, and Chris Coons is a talent," he said.
The Republicans do need a candidate for county
executive. To be sure, the electorate is tilted against them -- with
338,475 registered voters in 2002 split 45 percent Democrat, 32
percent Republican and 23 percent others -- and the county has run a
budget surplus despite the jittery economic times, but the
executive's office could be there for the taking this time because
of the spectacle the Gordon administration has become.
There is the federal investigation that hangs
over the government, as well as the continuing political slapstick
over banishments to the Bear library, a gun raid on Freebery's house
and a fender-bender in Gordon's driveway -- all this before Coons
and Freebery go at it in what is expected to be an ugly primary.
Clearly this is not a year to sit out. The
Republicans appear ready to drop the fig-leaf candidacy of House
Speaker Terry R. Spence and find someone real to run.
A new name being mentioned is Christopher J.
Castagno, the 42-year-old New Castle City Council president who
recently changed his registration from independent to Republican and
says he is thinking about entering the race with party
"Terry Spence's name is still out there. As of
yet he has not withdrawn it. Chris Castagno may be interested, as
well," said Thomas S. Ross, the New Castle County Republican
co-chairman. "We've got our work to do, but people are ready for a
Coons could have been a tantalizing prospect.
A 40-year-old house counsel with W.L. Gore & Associates, the
Newark-based science company that is his family firm, Coons even has
a little elephant in his closet -- he was a Republican in college.
Still, he sent the Republicans a message
earlier this month that those days were behind him when he voted in
favor of a prevailing wage ordinance, a law backed by labor unions
to require the county to set compensation on construction contracts
at the pay earned by a majority of workers in a trade.
Republicans generally do not like prevailing
wage laws, regarding them as heavy-handed government interference
with employers and the free market. That should have been the last
word on the Coons' recruitment drive, but in politics you never say
"Given a chance," Strine said, "we'll
certainly discuss it further."
RETURN TO ARCHIVES
RETURN TO COVER PAGE