Delaware GOP announces 2012 candidates. Where’s Christine?

The Delaware Republican Party has announced a slate of statewide challengers to take on the Democratic incumbents in the November general election. That’s good. The role of the minority party is to insure that voters always have a choice. No incumbent of either party should go unchallenged at re-election time.

Missing from the Republican slate is tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, who had increasing success both at the polls and raising money as she ran successively (but not successfully) for the U.S. Senate in 2006, 2008, and 2010. She scored her biggest achievement in 2010 when she upset long-time Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle in the Republican primary to win the Republican nomination, before losing to now Senator Chris Coons in the general election.

U.S. Senator and former Governor Tom Carper is seeking a third six-year term in the U.S. Senate this year. To run against him the Republican party is putting up, Kevin Wade? Kevin is a first-time candidate, not counting a brief run at Delaware’s congressional seat in 2010 before he dropped out after a weak showing at the Republican state convention.

I knew Kevin in 2008 when he was a leader of the Giuliani for President campaign in Delaware. I joined Kevin in that campaign because I thought it would build and broaden the Republican base to have a national standard-bearer who was both pro-Choice and pro-Gay rights. I should have known that campaign would go nowhere.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Is Christine O’Donnell’s political career over? Or is she waiting in the wings to make a dramatic announcement? The Republican nominating convention is in April, but the primary election isn’t until September. Christine has shown that she can win the primary even after losing the party endorsement at the spring convention.

Nothing would generate more interest in Delaware politics and guarantee a higher voter turnout this fall than another Christine O’Donnell run for the U.S. Senate. What’s she going to do if she doesn’t run again?

To challenge popular Governor Jack Markell, Delaware Republicans appear to be supporting upstate businessman Jeff Cragg, who has run for office before, but was beaten both times in the Republican primary. To challenge incumbent Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, the Republicans have recruited Sher Valenzuela, a true first-time novice candidate that I don’t know at all, but who brings to the Republican ticket the political pluses of being a woman, from downstate Sussex County, and with a great Hispanic surname.

Delaware’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was won in 2010 by former Lieutenant Governor John Carney. He will be challenged by New Castle County Council President Tom Kovach, who has been the beneficiary of the Delaware Republican Party’s remarkable organizational skill at winning special elections.

In a special election to fill a vacancy, voter turnout is low, and Delaware Republicans have been able to flood one district with volunteers from all over the state. Tom was the beneficiary of such an effort to fill a vacancy in the state house of representatives in December 2008. He then lost the seat in the 2010 general election, but won another special election to his current position when a vacancy arose in 2011.

Not running for the Republicans this year is former state senate minority leader Charlie Copeland who gave up his safe senate seat and leadership position in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor. Also not running statewide this year is current state house minority leader Greg Lavelle, even though his house district has been eliminated by reapportionment after the 2010 census. Instead Lavelle will be challenging State Senator Mike Katz, a medical doctor who won the senate seat vacated by Copeland in 2008, the first Democrat to win that particular state senate seat in anyone’s living memory, and probably since before the Civil War.

What do they and Christine O’Donnell know that Kevin Wade and Jeff Cragg may not? Although the nation may be politically divided, in Delaware the political wind is still at the back of the Democrats.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal