Lt. Gov. Denn could still get primary challenger for A.G.; and Del. likely gets vacant Lt. Gov's office
Story lines emerging from Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn's decision to file for the office of Delaware Attorney General, to succeed Beau Biden:
* Despite Denn's substantial advantage in having been elected three times to statewide office (twice as Lieutenant Governor; once as state Insurance Commissioner) and with money in his campaign account, plus an easygoing style, Kathleen Jennings, a deputy in Beau Biden's office, could still force a Democratic Party primary by challenging Denn. But could her representation of Robert Richards IV while he was on probation cost her votes? Not that a defendant isn't entitled to legal representation, but the Richards case is politically toxic. Of course, political parties abhor primaries.
* The ease with which Lieutenant Governor Denn shifted his sights from the office of Governor to Delaware Attorney General invites speculation that Denn had prior knowledge of Beau Biden's decision. In an interview with me, Denn denies it, insisting he found out about Beau Biden's decision at the same time as the rest of us. Of course, that may be technically true, but he might have heard rumblings...
(WDEL's talk-show host Al Mascitti has long argued that Denn seemed to lose his "fire in the belly" about running for Delaware Governor about a year ago. Did Denn lose his ambition because he saw the writing on the wall about a Beau Biden candidacy?)
* Assuming Denn won the A.G.'s office, that would leave Delaware without a Lieutenant Governor. Governor Markell couldn't appoint anyone, nor could he call a special election. That appears to be the legal consensus. So if the sitting governor were incapacitated or died, the line of succession would go to unelected Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. (Unelected? State Treasurer Chip Flowers would have a conniption!) A lieutenant governor wouldn't be around to break a tie in the Delaware State Senate. Will Delaware legislators race to fill that hole in the Delaware state constitution?
* Will the Republicans come up with a blue-chip candidate? Translation: Will former U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly agree to be that candidate? Of course, Connolly might not enjoy the name recognition he had some 15 years ago, with his prosecution of the Tom Capano murder case. Memories fade, especially among people who don't avidly follow Delaware politics and legal cases. (One thing a lot of people don't realize: Connolly has been representing the Wheeler family in the case of the still-missing Jack Wheeler. That has proven to be an even more mysterious disappearance than that of Anne Marie Fahey.)
Delicious irony if Connolly ran to succeed Beau Biden as A.G.: Connolly came up short in the prosecution of Sherry Freebery, chief aide to then (and now) New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon; her former aide Janet Smith; and Gordon himself. (Of course, a certain judge in Philly may have had something to do with that!) Some Dems at the time saw it as a political prosecution. And Gordon is said to be close to the Bidens. And many believe then Senator Biden undercut the nomination of Colm Connolly to a vacant seat on the Federal bench from Delaware, even though the American Bar Association unanimously awarded Connolly a "well-qualified" rating.
Amazing the dominoes activated by Beau Biden's decision not to seek re-election...
For a contrarian analysis - "If Matt Denn can't stand up to Jack Markell, how can he fight crime in Delaware?" - check out this Delaware blog, "Kilroy's Delaware". (Kilroy is a fierce critic of the Markell Administration's championship of "Race to the Top", charter schools, and other educational initiatives. Kilroy also indicts Denn as a former protege to then-Governor Ruth Ann Minner, challenging him to dig up some of the skeletons from the Minner Administration.) Kilroy wants Kathleen Jennings to run...
I would think the powers to be in the DEL DEM party would tell Ms. Jennings that she's not electable for dog-catcher this year, because of the Robert Richards case, so lay low and the next time around she'll be better situated for people to forget the Richard's case.
Why would the DEL DEMS want her, when they've got a solid popular DEM in Matt Denn? Even Mrpizza likes him and my guess is he doesn't like many Democrats.
So I could see some back-room conversations between the DEM party leadership and Ms. Jennings, "For the good of the party, please do not throw your hat into the ring this time around." I know I'd not vote for her. My guess is the DEL G.O.P. would make the Richards' case an issue in the election if Kathleen Jennings were the Democratic nominee, thus making the odds of her winning VERY slim as most folks are rather ticked-off at the special kid-glove treatment [he wouldn't do well in prison; golly, does anyone do well in prison?, etc.] that this wealthy perp got [still lives in his mansion with a second mansion at the beach] vs. how the average working-class perp gets treated, not equal justice at all.
So a Jennings run for AG is a win/win for the DEL G.O.P.
Tue, Apr 22, 2014 9:51am
Mike, you seem to have a misguided sense of how the parties operate. They can tell her not to run; they can organize against her; but she is allowed to independently decide what she wants, or does not want to do....
As with everything, one can always find someone to support you... No matter who you are, or on what cause you are running....
If she runs, it will be on her own... and she could win. Which, on that slim thread of hope, is why we have primaries and people who try for them...
I remember one unlikely candidate who challenged a stalwart icon, despite the fact she was only known for her dalliance in witchcraft, and her "Articles Against Masturbation".
History says all people should have the opportunity to run, and that putting the party solely in charge, leads to a dull life for us all......
Mike from Delaware
Tue, Apr 22, 2014 10:34am
Kavips: My guess is the DEL G.O.P. hopes she's the DEM candidate, so Delaware Republicans have a real shot at winning a statewide office. Sure the "I'm not a witch woman" ran, and yes she did get votes, but ultimately lost three different elections.
The idea is to run a candidate who can win. So if she decides to run anyhow, then the DEL DEMS would probably have to spend money they don't want to spend on a primary. You're right though, she has as much right to run as anyone. But I'd not want to run if I had the type of baggage Ms. Jennings has right now. I'd wait until the next election, give the public time to forget.
It's sort of why I don't believe Jeb Bush should run. He's definitely the smarter brother, but it hasn't been long enough since Americans suffered under the Economic Crash of 2007 caused by the poor decisions made by his dumber brother, George W. So the odds of Jeb being successful in 2016 are pretty slim. Better he wait until more time has passed if he truly wants a chance at being President. It simply is not his time, just as it's not Kathleen Jennings' time.
Tue, Apr 22, 2014 10:39am
Please read the "Kilroy's Delaware" post I just threaded at the end of my blog post (above) and tell me what you think.
A completely different way of looking at Denn and Jennings...
Mike from Delaware
Tue, Apr 22, 2014 1:19pm
OK, my reply to the Kilroy piece is, where was Kathleen Jennings' concern, etc., for those two children of Robert Richards? Their daddy is a trust-fund "baby" [DuPont heir, and the late Bill Roth was his uncle] so the law doesn't apply to him, too well-connected. He can do to his kids whatever he wants and doesn't even get his hand slapped; yep, that's equal justice for all by gum, by golly. So his kids didn't get justice and the AG's office via Kathleen Jennings didn't look out for them, so why would the good citizens of Delaware want to reward her with the AG title? Maybe the DEMS ought to find someone else besides Denn or Jennings. Sounds like both are flawed.
I do agree with Kilroy on one thing though: YES, Ferris Wharton should run for AG as the Republican against whomever the DEM candidate ends up being.
Sounds like maybe Ferris Wharton's time has finally arrived. Maybe Delaware is finally ready for someone who'll take the job of being state AG seriously. If that's the case, Mr. Wharton is their man.
Tue, Apr 22, 2014 10:26pm
I think at the end of the day, Denn gets the nomination no matter who the Democrats try to beat him with.
For the general, I think Denn is a shoe-in as Wharton and Connolly are dinosaurs by comparison. Even though Denn is running for a different office than the one he currently occupies, he still benefits from the power of incumbency.
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