I read today's front-page story in the News Journal about Governor Markell using private legal counsel to evade environmental restrictions involving the Delaware City refinery, and I thought (a) it was an unusually good piece of writing; (b) in a week nobody (especially in the Democratic Party) will be talking about this; and (c) if the poor bastards at PBF Energy had only thought to align themselves with Rodel they would have been spared all this bad press.
It used to be a truism that Ruth Ann Minner's administration was one of the most corrupt and least effective in modern Delaware history. Now I yearn nostalgically for the days of Minner Reading Teachers and the folksy downstate style of laid back corruption that we used to enjoy in those days.
Valerie Woodruff was Secretary of Education, and even though she was famous for her, ah, irritability at her staff, Delaware public schools actually ran like a school system. Ruth Ann had enough good sense not to mess with a system that was incrementally getting better each year.
Enter smooth-taling Wall Street approved Jack Markell, who convinced a slim majority of Democrats that he was a better choice than John Carney (which would have been tougher had Carney possessed an actual personality).
But now, five years later, I'm thinking that another lackluster administration like Carney would have given us (look at his record in Congress) would have been far preferable over the glitz of the Markell years.
What will be the legacies of the Markell administration in Delaware?
Wow, there are so many to choose from:
The tax dollars
The new hospital to be built after Markell did not like the decision of the regulatory board and simply replaced it with new toadies who would do what he wanted.
The "not a public body" charter school work group that created HB 165 (with Pistol Pete Schwarzkopf following instructions to the letter and not even allowing comment on the illegalities during legislative debate).
Race to the Top and all the massive advances in Delaware public education, especially for children in Wilmington. Not.
Removing SROs from the budget while simultaneously ballooning the budget of the Office of the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.
Never proposing a raise for state employees.
$80 million of last-minute regressive taxes proposed in the last three weeks of a General Assembly session after cutting taxes on the wealthy a few months earlier.
I'm sure you have your favorite Markell moment that I've omitted (there have been so many).
The interesting question, however, is why none of this ever redounds on the Democratic Party in Delaware. Part of the answer, of course, is that the Republicans are currently so bad that even the Warren G. Harding of Governors could not be beaten by one of them. Another part of the answer is that there are really two different Democratic Parties in Delaware (like there are two different GOPs): the Progressives (Kowalko, Baumbach, et al) and the Corporatists (Markell, Schwarzkopf, blah blah), and other than agreeing on things like marriage equality and gun control, guess what?
They don't actually agree on much of anything except sharing the Democratic political machinery to get elected.
As a result, ironically, they have given back a measure of power to the GOP in the General Assembly just because those who are Markell sycophants and those who aren't cannot get anything passed without needing help from Cathy Cloutier or Ernie Lopez.
Democratic caucus? There's a real laugher these days.
Meanwhile, Governor Markell's secret work group on excess puppies has reported (and his private council has agreed) that it would improve his chances of becoming US Secretary of Education to be seen executing strays on WDDE.
So he's loading his pistol (using a small capacity magazine, however) because he knows that nothing will actually make people care about the worst gubernatorial administration in recent Delaware history, cause, you know, he's a Democrat and the Republicans would be (somehow) ... worse?
2014 will be interesting. Matt Denn has watched his political capital of being a generally hard-working good guy be compromised by his inability to distance himself from his boss, and you have to wonder if John Carney's not thinking about giving it another change.
To be honest, the possibility of Carney administration is looking better and better to me, and I personally think the guy's a cipher.
Then again, we could always try the Libertarian option of "none of the above," leave the post open for four years and see if maybe things don't work better.
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