WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Erika Benner accuses Chip Flowers of harassment

Even as I was hosting Wednesday night's Delaware G.O.P. state Treasurer's debate, Democratic incumbent state Treasurer Chip Flowers was responding to accusations from his former deputy which threatened to derail his path to a second term.

We knew this shoe would drop; former deputy state treasurer Erika Benner began to send e-mails suggesting it was time for her to tell her side of the story, presumably the Alaska trip and those New England Patriots tickets.

But the allegations now include a threat of violence against Benner's son. It all goes back to the 4th of July. Benner claims the flare-up began when her son got into a verbal spat with Flowers, while the treasurer was preparing for a July 4th parade in Dover. That prompted several hours of texting and phone conversations. Benner claims Flowers warned her he'd defend himself with a gun, and shoot the teen in the head if Benner's son ever approached Flowers again.

Flowers, in turn, claims to have a video of Benner's son attacking Flowers' car, and shouting a racial slur in the presence of his mother. Flowers insists he's not the one who's harassed Benner; it's the other way around, with Benner contacting him after she first claimed harassment.

Dover Police, in turn, doubt a crime was committed in the first incident, but police are still investigating a second complaint claiming Flowers would not stop texting, and calling her cellphone.

Both Benner and Flowers have given text messages to The NEWS JOURNAL. Those very text messages are in dispute.

Also in dispute: Whether Benner ever admitted to Dover Police that she and Flowers had had a romantic relationship that ended in 2012. So Benner is not only disputing Flowers, she's also now disputing the police.

Benner's credibility is on the line, but so is Flowers', lest we not forget one or more alleged domestic incidents in his past. (You may vaguely recall that Flowers pro-actively came out to admit women had accused him of physical abuse in the past.)

From Celia Cohen ("Delaware Grapevine") in The DOVER POST in 2010:


Needless to say, this is one of the stranger episodes to haunt a statewide officeholder in Delaware.

How does Flowers extricate himself from this cloud? Does one now presume that Sean Barney has the edge in the race for the Democratic nomination for state Treasurer? (One could still argue this contest is so polarized, this episode actually changes little in a low-turn-out, Democratic primary.) Could Flowers' supporters credibly claim that the Barney campaign (or the Markell or Carper forces) encouraged Erika Benner to go public at this time? If Ms. Benner WAS encouraged - or even got some coaching - how did she manage to fumble her response to police about whether she and Flowers had been involved in some kind of romantic relationship? Do Republicans now become emboldened about their chances of winning a statewide office other than Auditor? Or does that still depend on who emerges as the Republican nominee?

Posted at 8:02am on August 14, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 9:10am
Sean Barney doesn't have the creds that Ken Simpler has, BUT if Cher Vanezula is the G.O.P. candidate, I'd then vote for Sean Barney, because after hearing the debate on WDEL last night, she simply is not the right person for that job. She filed for the job literally an hour before the time was up to do so. She demonstrated in the debate she doesn't see the Treasurer's job as important, as the first thing out of her mouth in her opening statement was if all the Treasurer does is essentially keep the books, then we can outsource that [paraphrase], but she sees herself as a voice to try to influence the legislature. So that right there tells me shes' not interested at all in being Treasurer, but the office would be simply a stepping stone for her to run for a real legislative office.

She also likes to use the 'I'm a woman' thing [her version of throwing out the race card everytime something isn't going your way], as she did this almost every time Simpler would attack one of her comments, yet she attacked him throughout the entire debate, interrupting continuously. So it appears that, in her mind, it's OK for her to be rude and obnoxious, but he should have sat back and allowed her to control the debate, because she's a woman battling against this man. Sher's whiny voice sounded so much like Michele Bachmann's, it surprised me this morning, looking at the WDEL video, that Sher looks different from Bachmann.

Simpler demonstrated a number of times during the debate that he knows what he's talking about, as Sher dodged any details, probably because she lacks that type of knowledge.

So hopefully the DEMS will be smart enough to make Sean Barney their candidate, because Flowers should not have this job a day longer than is required by law.

So the big question becomes, if Sher were to win the G.O.P. nomination and Flowers wins the DEM nomination, who would I vote for? I'd write in Simpler; if not allowed, then I'd not vote for either, because neither Flowers nor Valenzeula deserves the job of Treasurer, in my opinion.

Delaware really needs to have 'None of the Above' buttons, but, of course, that will never happen, because the knuckleheads in Dover fear then they'd lose their jobs.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 9:43am
Mike: Why the "war on women"?...just kidding, but be ready for that exact tactic to be used for anyone who doesn't support Hillary or Warren in 2016.

On the other hand...it looks like Flowers just may be guilty of the "war" charges against women.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 10:50am
EarlGrey: Hillary and Elizabeth Warren, I actually like. Both are intelligent, well read, speak well, know the subject they are discussing [I don't have to agree with everything they say to like and respect them - yet do agree with them on many things - as a moderate, I'm a bleeding heart liberal socialist on some issues, according to my conservative friends; and a stiff-necked conservative fascist, according to some of my liberal friends on other issues]. I believe either Hillary or Elizabeth Warren would be more than qualified to be President. So the G.O.P./TEA folks shouldn't underestimate either lady's abilities or each of her ability to win in 2016. A Hillary/Warren ticket would be tough to beat.

Sadly the Republicans seem to pick women who aren't of that caliber [Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann are examples]. Christy Todd Whitman I always thought could possibly be a solid candidate for Prez, but that never happened. Maybe Arizona governor Jan Brewer now would be a great female candidate for Prez in 2016. The battle of the Women for Prez, could make for an interesting election. I can hear the commentators calling this a real "cat fight" - heh heh.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 11:23am
Mike: We won't agree on Hillary or Warren, but I don't dislike either one because they are not male...just as my opinion on our current president has nothing to do with his race.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 11:28am
IF Condoleezza Rice ran in 2016 that would make a very interesting race...especially in contrast to Hillary...since both Condi and Hillary held the same job of Sect. of State.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 12:21pm
I was amazed last night at Simpler's self-control. What an arrogant, mean woman Valenzuela is, and he never rose to the bait. She clearly had no idea what she was talking about. Simpler is not only the most qualified candidate in the field, it sounds like he may be the most qualified candidate for Delaware Treasurer ever. It came through loud and clear that he really wants the job, and wants to do the job, and Valenzuela is just looking for her next political opportunity.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 1:11pm
BillW: Well said.

EarlGrey: Good point about Hillary vs Condi as both have been Sec. of State. Condi Rice vs Hillary or even Elizabeth Warren would make for an interesting Prez race. All are very intelligent, well read, Women who all know the issues and how they'd go about fixing the nation's problems. Yes all three are very qualified. That would be an election where you'd not be choosing between the lesser of two evils, but who's vision for America do you like the most. No dumb and dumber candidates in that trio.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 2:06pm
"All are very intelligent, well read, Women who all know the issues and how they'd go about fixing the nation's problems. Yes all three are very qualified. That would be an election where you'd not be choosing between the lesser of two evils, but who's vision for America do you like the most. No dumb and dumber candidates in that trio."

We will simply have to agree to disagree...please list some actual accomplishments from Hillary or Warren making either worthy of leading our country. Warren IMHO is no more experienced than our current leader and we see how well that's working out.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 3:17pm
EarlGrey: Some background on Elizabeth Warren.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Warren served as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Her independent and tireless efforts to protect taxpayers, to hold Wall Street accountable, and to ensure tough oversight of both the Bush and Obama Administrations won praise from both sides of the aisle. The Boston Globe named Elizabeth Warren Bostonian of the Year and TIME Magazine called her a "New Sheriff of Wall Street" for her oversight efforts.

Senator Warren was a law professor for more than 30 years, including nearly 20 years as the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. The graduating class at Harvard twice recognized her with the Sacks-Freund Award for excellence in teaching. She taught courses on commercial law, contracts, and bankruptcy, and wrote more than a hundred articles and ten books, including three national best-sellers, A Fighting Chance, The Two-Income Trap, and All Your Worth. National Law Journal named her one of the Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade; TIME Magazine twice named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world; and she has been honored by the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association with the Lelia J. Robinson Award.

Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Houston and Rutgers School of Law. Elizabeth and her husband Bruce Mann have been married for 32 years and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She's no lightweight like a Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 6:03pm
Warren also plays "identity politics" (the complete opposite of MLK Jr.'s vision of judging a person on the content of one's character)... neither she nor Hillary IMHO would do anything to repair the divides building in our nation... again, do you really want another professor/bureaucrat running our nation without successfully running anything else? I am convinced we need a real leader who has successfully run a state (as governor) and one hopefully who has been in the armed forces... no more professors (without real-world experience) or lawyers (constantly twisting laws to work for them, and against all others).

We are turning our country into the Tower of Babel (dividing our country by race/sex/wealth/religion/politics) rather than uniting all citizens as Americans with unique gifts/opinions/ideology (united we stand/divided we fall).

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 9:13pm
I must say I'm not surprised that somebody on this blog would speak evil of Sher Valenzuela and call her arrogant, as we live in a day when Christians who refuse to compromise the truth of God's word are called bigots and everything else under the sun.

Mike from Delaware
Fri, Aug 15, 2014 8:20am
Mrpizza: Did you listen to the debate live on WDEL or to the WDEL podcast? If you didn't, then you should, because she came across very arrogant and rude, be she a Christian or not. One would expect better from a follower of Christ.

By the way, this is the first I heard of Cher being a believer. My guess is, based on how he handled himself, Ken Simpler possibly is a follower of Christ, maybe a Lutheran - heh heh. He was falling all over himself trying to be polite to her and not take the bait and get angry, at her constant interrupting and her "shots" at him. So from a "witnessing your faith" thing in how you act and treat others, your gal Cher didn't do so well.

Mrpizza: Martin Luther famously said, Let the wife make a husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave. That can apply to how we treat others as well.

After the first half hour of the debate I was ready to shut off the radio, because frankly I had had enough of her constant interrupting and arrogance. I fought the urge and did listen to the entire broadcast. So from where I was sitting, I wouldn't have been sorry to see her leave the studio. Ken Simpler, on the other hand, I would have liked to have heard more from him.

Sorry man, not trying to step on the toes of your candidate, as it just now hit me, that you did tell all of us here that she goes to your church. I had forgotten that. So this is a bit more personal for you, wasn't trying to step on your toes either as I just now remembered that tiny bit of trivia.

But if you want to give her good advice, she needs to ratchet down the Michele Bachmann act, the confrontational approach, and develop some ideas that apply directly to the Treasuers job. My wife also wasn't impressed with Cher's performance. So it's not just from a male perspective.

I'm even more embarrassed for her now that I remember she's a sister in Christ. Be at Peace.

Fri, Aug 15, 2014 7:21pm
It's okay Mike. I've never actually met her face to face, but I do know from hearing her speak to the congregation that she does stand strong for traditional family values. As for the debate, no, I never heard it, but politics by its very nature is down and dirty and not for the faint-hearted.

Better she than me!

Sun, Aug 17, 2014 1:30am
Sher is no Christian. She may be a charlatan, but according to the only book that defines Christianity, she does not meet that high standard...

Before, it was a toss up between Simpler or Flowers as to who would be the best candidate for that office. That needed time to flesh out. Without Flowers, the best choice is obviously Simpler. I hope Republicans can smell a win, and ditch that charlatan pretending to be a Christian... who in the reality of a debate, showed she acts more like the followers of Sharia law...

Sun, Aug 17, 2014 1:36am
Sorry, Pizza. I just saw and got reminded she allegedly drives two hours up and two hours back to go to your church on Old Baltimore Pike here in Wilmington... from her home in Milton.

Still, until I see a Christian side of her in action, I can't change my opinion of how she comes across.... That is, very un-Christian. I'm embarrassed to be called a Christian if that is how non-Christians actually see us... Fortunately, I know that is not true... Real Christians are loved and respected and show the same back to non Christians and other denominations as well. Mike, is a good example of that...

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