Delaware Grapevine by Celia Cohen: Politics and Government

Politics Hits the Beach—Oh, the Memories


Published:

In summertime in Delaware, even politics goes to the beach. It goes there, like Willie Sutton who robbed banks, because that is where the money was, because the beach in summertime is where the people are.

Politics packs its fundraisers. It packs its chicken dinners, picnic style. It packs way too many state legislators wearing shorts.

It packs its feuds. Talk about baggage.

As the weather turns warm, politics in Delaware sinks slowly south. It slides into the middle of the state in Kent County, where it gets stuck in Legislative Hall in Dover at the mercy of the General Assembly, until the deal-making, grandstanding, double-crossing and heel-drumming end on the last day of the session on June 30, like an out-of-sorts Cinderella saying, “The hell with the glass slipper, I want to go home.”

Afterward, it takes its leisure, still in Kent County, at the Delaware State Fair at the end of July in Harrington. There is something absolutely right about politics hanging around a barnyard. It takes one to know one.

Finally, politics gets where it is going and takes in the ocean breeze.

Not that this is idle time. Here in summertime at the beach, Delaware politics has had some of its most memorable moments.

This is where Joe Biden came when he needed his state to restore him. Biden was coming off an ugly run for president, not the blessing-in-disguise run in 2008 that turned him into the Democratic vice president, but the earlier one for the 1988 nomination that was so botched up, his candidacy never even made it out of 1987.

Biden’s first campaign collapsed under an uproar over plagiarism, the padding of his academic record and an episode of belittling a voter with a tirade of my-IQ-is-bigger-than-your-IQ. He took the bad headaches he was having and went home.

Within months, Biden was in mortal peril. The headaches were brain aneurysms, and there was a blood clot in his lungs, too. He needed half a year to recover.

When he was well enough to return to public life in August 1988, he chose the Sussex County Democratic Beach Jamboree, a classic of the political summer season, and the emotion was as engulfing as the sand dunes surrounding the gathering at a pavilion in Cape Henlopen State Park.

A crowd numbering upward of a thousand, far more than usual, thronged to the event to welcome Biden back. When a warm-up speaker mentioned that people had not expected him to survive, Biden murmured, “Neither did I.”

Folks could not get enough of Biden that evening at the beach jamboree, but it was not always so. Other years, when he was as regular as a senator, Biden was his usual self, a human filibuster, and the organizers always had him speaking last, ostensibly because he was the most important, but more likely because he would have to stop speechifying as dusk came on and the mosquitoes drove everybody away.

The beach jamboree always seems to be in the thick of politics. It was the place where the Democratic Party acknowledged in 2007 it had reached the point of no return and there would be a primary for governor the next year between Jack Markell and John Carney.

It was also the place where the party would knit itself back together the following election season, as Gov. Markell hailed congressman-in-waiting Carney, and happy days were here again.

The beach is not just for Delaware politicians, not with Washington, D.C., just a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge away.

John McCain showed up a couple of years before he became the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. It was early in the season, just before Memorial Day, and he arrived as the featured guest of Mike Castle, a political buddy who was having a fundraiser for his congressional campaign.

Castle is a connoisseur of beach politics. Once upon a time, he was even a part-owner of the Bottle & Cork, the lively nightspot in Dewey Beach, although he prudently divested before he ran for governor in 1984. The only bar a governor should be associated with is the bar association Castle joined as a lawyer.

When Castle was a congressman, he typically hosted the unofficial end of the Republicans’ summer circuit with a reception during the Labor Day weekend at a Rehoboth Beach country club, an idyllic setting for extracting campaign contributions. Besides, he was in the vicinity, anyway, at his beach house in Dewey.

McCain made quite an impression. He not only mingled with the Republican cocktail set, he let Castle talk him into going cross-county to Seaford to a retirement party for Tina Fallon, an 88-year-old Republican state representative.

McCain hammed it up, entreating Fallon to run for vice president, and he also joked about coming from a state with a long line of failed presidential candidates, namely, Barry Goldwater, Mo Udall and Bruce Babbitt. “Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don’t tell their children they can grow up to be president,” McCain quipped.

Barney Frank, the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, also made the trek across the bay bridge to Rehoboth. It was a landmark appearance. Frank, the first congressman to say publicly he was gay, was the keynote speaker in 2003 for the first big event of the Delaware Stonewall Democratic Club.

It is one of Delaware’s best ironies that Sussex County, where the conservative voters are, is home to Rehoboth Beach, where the gay people are.

Summer means Fourth of July parades, and Sussex has them here and there. Wherever there are marching bands and fire trucks and beauty queens in convertibles, there are crowds, and wherever there are crowds, there are politicians, and so they march. They smile, but it would be wrong to conclude they are actually happy.

Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor, let out the secret when he once blogged that parades were right up there with ribbon cuttings, which he described this way:

“I just think that photos of politicians mugging with circus-clown-sized scissors are kind of strange. The scene just before the photo is taken is vaguely reminiscent of the milk-and-sugar table at Starbucks. A bunch of people wearing suits smiling politely while they gently but firmly elbow each other for position.”

Sussex sometimes has political events in wintertime, too, like the Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner in February. One year there was a problem when it was snowed out and had to be moved to springtime. Another year a bunch of conservative legislators all put the same Lincoln quotation in their speeches–“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich”–which was another kind of problem.

Lincoln never said it. A 19th-century minister did, but his sayings and Lincoln’s apparently got mixed up after they appeared in the same pamphlet.

Better stick to summer, Sussex.


 

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February 2018

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Cost: 10

Where:
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center
100 Station Ave
Oaks, PA  19456
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Sponsor: MarketPlace Events
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Delaware Theatre Company
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Cost: $10

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

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Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2288
Contact Name: Nanticoke's Diabetes Education Department
Website »

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By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

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Show More...
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
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Website »

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Cost: FREE

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Faith Victory Christian Center
301 Commonwealth Avenue
Claymont, DE  19703
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Telephone: 302.354.6726
Contact Name: Alvin Walker
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Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
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Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Telephone: 302.368.2984
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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STAR Health Sciences Complex
540 S. College Ave
Newark, DE  19713
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Explore connections between people and plants in these four inspiring presentations. Special thanks to Whole Foods Market for sponsoring this  year’s refreshments. Individual lecture pricing:...

Cost: $20 members; $30 non-members

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Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Mackenzie Knight-Fochs
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Tickets are $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students. Tickets are available at the door. Cash or check only.

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
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View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Ronald Barron was principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until 2008. He joined the orchestra in 1970 after being a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and also...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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More information

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Cost: Free with admission; Adults: $14, Children 6-14: $5, Children 5 and under: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Creek Road
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View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Website »

More information

Lights of Life Goes Disco Nights is Delaware’s premier breast cancer fundraiser to benefit the local programs and services of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Join us for a glamorous, fun...

Cost: *VIP $125.00; *Silver Mirror Ball $50.00

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel
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Sponsor: Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition
Telephone: 302-778-1102
Contact Name: Eliza Mohler
Website »

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Cost: 0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main St.
Newark, DE  19711
View map »

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