The Endless Election


By: Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

THE ENDLESS ELECTION. Sometimes an election is not over, even when it is over. Delaware is having one of them right now.

It is nothing as dramatic as the presidential election of 2000, when nobody knew who would be the next president, George Bush or Al Gore, until the Supreme Court spoke on December 12, after Veterans Day, after Thanksgiving, with the deadline for the Electoral College on December 18 drawing perilously close.

Still, it is pretty big for Delaware. The control of the state Senate in Dover hangs in the balance.

This is highly unusual. If there has been a constant in state politics, it is that the Democrats run the state Senate.

The Republicans have not won a majority of the state Senate seats since 1972, but they lost control on the very first day of the session in January 1973, when two of their own treacherously voted to put the Democrats in charge, where the Democrats have been ever since.

Irony of ironies, if the Democrats lose out now, it will not be on Election Day but in a change that comes after the session has started, just as it did 44 years ago.

The situation is due to what did happen on Election Day. While the voters here were busy doing what they seem to do best, which is rewarding Democrats – by electing John Carney as governor, Lisa Blunt Rochester as congresswoman, Bethany Hall-Long as lieutenant governor, Trini Navarro as insurance commissioner and the Democrats as the majority in both chambers of the legislature – the voters also could have planted the seeds of Democratic destruction.

The reason is the Democrats wound up with a one-seat majority in the state Senate, 11-10, when Patti Blevins, the Democratic president pro tem, was unceremoniously ousted. (It has been not been a good run for pro tems. The last two had to be replaced after they lost, and the one before them had to be replaced after he died.)

That one-seat majority is now threatened, because there has to be a special election to replace Hall-Long, who will be giving up the balance of her four-year term as a state senator when she takes her oath in January as the new lieutenant governor.

The party that wins the special election will control the state Senate.

Even the special election, though, might not end the election season. It would continue if a state representative were to win Hall-Long’s seat, and Earl Jaques, a Democratic state representative, is a possible candidate. It would take another special election to replace him.

It means the membership of the General Assembly might not be set until deep into the spring.

First things first, though. The special election to replace Hall-Long will be the most cataclysmic since there was a special election following the death of a Democratic state representative in 1979. It flipped control of the state House of Representatives from the Democrats to the Republicans.

History could repeat itself, first in the state House, second in the state Senate.

Hall-Long’s district runs from Newark to Middletown. It has 34,000 voters in it – 45 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 26 percent others – and if they have any idea what is coming, they will stay off the Internet, unplug their phones, seal up their mailboxes and not answer their doors.

The politicians are about to descend. If people remember the scene in “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock? It is going to look something like that.

This column is posted with the permission of Delaware Grapevine. It may not be copied or transmitted without the approval of The Byrd Group LLC and Delaware Grapevine.