Fittingly, the Delaware State Republican Committee held its annual convention inside the Dover Downs one-armed-bandit gambling hall on Saturday morning. Well, okay, alright…it was in a large ballroom across the lobby from the slot machines, and the buffet breakfast provided was, in fact, excellent.
Sadly, things began to slide downhill rather rapidly the moment the convention was called to order. Someone had decided to invite a rabbi to give the invocation, which would have been of no consequence whatsoever were it not for what he said, and how. One delegate described those words as “making a mockery of Christian prayer”, which was, in my view, an accurate assessment. After each nearly blasphemous entreaty of God, he said, “Amen, Baruch atah adonai, insh-allah” prayer doxologies for Christians, Jews and muslims. The mohammedan reference was merely offensive to many who were there, as a Christian prayer may have been a capital offense in dozens of muslim countries. At the same time we were being slapped across our faces with pleas to allah, many in attendance were told that Burgon Sealy, who murdered Trooper Corporal Stephen Ballard on Wednesday morning in Bear, was a muslim. This has not been verified, but sources who would know said he was.
As if to further solidify the counter-cultural nature of the convention, the lady who sang the national anthem seemed to throw in everything except Ella Fitzgerald-style scat, which made The Star Spangled Banner almost unrecognizable. Octave shifts and other odd, unpredictable quirks prevented the attendees from singing along.
It was Charlie Copeland’s last convention as chairman, and he’s always been a great guy with an impossible job to do. Since Priscilla Rakestraw singlehandedly delivered a GOP majority in Leg Hall decades ago, few Republican state chairmen have had a more Sisyphean task, and, let’s be honest, numbers are numbers. With thirteen zip codes in Wilmington possessing more voters than the rest of the state combined, unless the Delaware GOP masters the art of the giveaway, this will be a Democrat-controlled state for quite a while.
Not that there’s all that much philosophical difference between New Castle County Republicans and their inner-city Democrat neighbors. Conservatives call Mike Castle, for example, and other upstate GOP pols, “Republicans In Name Only”, and there are a lot of RINOs in Delaware. If anyone ever wondered if a rhinoceros could kill an elephant, stop wondering. The pachyderm bloodbath at the convention was no accident.
Mike Harrington ran unopposed for the chairmanship; he seems to be a good guy, but few know him that well. Carol Bodine retained her post as party secretary by acclamation. My close friend Dennis Cini, a Wilmington tax accountant, is now the party treasurer, even though he didn’t appear at the convention. Saturday was his grandson’s first holy communion and Dennis’ family’s needs come first, as they do with virtually all Republicans. But that’s where the comity ended.
Kevin Wade, who has been my best friend in Delaware for six years, ran for vice-chairman of the Delaware GOP, and there had been no opposition to him until Saturday morning. Emily Taylor, who is a very bright, educated and nice young woman from a New Castle Republican political family and has had success in managing Republican campaigns, was nominated by Sen. Colin Bonini from the floor, then seconded. She beat Kevin fifteen minutes later in the only contested election that morning. Wade, who has twice run for the U.S. senate as the Delaware Republican nominee, expended large amounts of his own personal capital to carry the GOP banner against Tom Carper and Chris Coons. It’s one thing to throw one’s hat in the ring; orchestrating a campaign which was clearly intended to exclude a conservative from a senior party position is something else. Nobody was as qualified, and nobody was as deserving, as Kevin was for vice-chairman.
A local blogger claims the ambush was engineered by some peripheral GOP grandstanders; to what end, nobody can say. The Mike Castle contingent, replete with “never Trumpers”, certainly celebrated Taylor’s installation as vice-chair as much as they did Kevin Wade’s exclusion. Whether this will benefit the party is open to debate; some ‘moderate’ GOP factions well north of the canal doubtless acted on the “woman card”. They would have been well advised to play the “conservative card” first. All they’ve done now is tell their most ardent team player to sit on the bench.
But, hey, that breakfast was awesome.