Circumstances thrust candidate into the limelight

October 16, 2012

Speaking at a Meet Our Democratic Candidates Fair Oct. 14, Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said - to loud laughter and applause - that Jane Hovington was “perhaps the most fortunate candidate in the room.”

Schwartzkopf was speaking before an overflow crowd of 200 or more enthusiastic Democrats at Fish On, located in Five Points near Lewes.

Hovington, who is running for the Senate District 19 seat, is the most obvious beneficiary of the decision by Republican Eric Bodenweiser, citing personal reasons, to suspend his campaign.

Last week I wrote that Marie Mayor had seemed to benefit from her primary in Representative District 20.

Her race against Lynn Rogers had the effect of increasing her name recognition.

I had thought the same thing about Bodenweiser, who waged a fierce and successful primary against incumbent Joe Booth. With the Booth-Bodenweiser battle garnering heavy coverage, Hovington - who faced no primary opponent - attracted little attention. Bodenweiser appeared to be well positioned for the general election.

But with Bodenweiser possibly out of the race, Hovington’s only opponent is Republican Brian G. Pettyjohn. Pettyjohn has a strong background as a former mayor and councilman of Georgetown, but he’s running as a write-in candidate, always a difficult challenge.

Hovington was introduced at Sunday’s event by U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, whose election chances were also eased by circumstances. Referring to Schwartzkopf’s comment that he was “lucky” in his Senate race, Coons deadpanned, “I don’t know what he was talking about.”

“I was going to beat Mike Castle and my mom knew it and my wife knew it and I knew it. Apparently, not enough other people knew it,” Coons joked.

Coons, who rather famously benefitted from Castle’s primary loss to Christine O’Donnell, said he told Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, “Honestly, Marco, the only thing I thought you and I had in common was that we both owed our election to the Tea Party.”

But Hovington’s taking nothing for granted. She corrected me when I casually referred to Bodenweiser being out of the race, noting that his campaign was merely “suspended.”

In her brief statement - all the candidates only spoke a minute or two - Hovington said, “I will be your state senator because I know the way that you feel. I live the way that you live … My door will always be open.”

“I have a heart for the people,” she said. “I have a heart, especially, for the children.”

Hovington, 62, has worked with children much of her life. She’s the founder of Character Academic Motivational Program (CAMP), which helps kids who have been suspended from school keep up with their studies. For 18 years, she ran a day care.

A New York native, Hovington has lived in Delaware for 40 years, continuously since 1985. She lives in Georgetown with her husband and has four grown children.

In an earlier candidates event at Baywood with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Hovington had stressed her interest in bringing back vocational schools and caring for the nation’s veterans.

Biden delivers

Sunday’s crowd appeared to be buoyed by Joe Biden’s performance in the Oct. 11 debate. Coons’ reference to the Biden-Ryan matchup drew loud cheers.

Yes, Biden received mixed reviews. And yes, most conservative commentators ripped his performance, saying he laughed too much and interrupted his opponent too often. (Biden’s tone and demeanor made him an easy mark for a “Saturday Night Live” skit.)

But facing the highest stakes of his political life, Biden delivered. Was he too combative, too dismissive?

Perhaps. But imagine if he had appeared too restrained. It would have sealed the fate of the Obama/Biden ticket. Far better to err on the side of being too aggressive.

Biden hammered home points that Obama missed. Three times he mentioned Mitt Romney’s statement that 47 percent of Americans were unwilling to take personal responsibility for their lives - an astonishing assertion for a presidential candidate.

For two weeks, Romney made the excuse that his comments were “inelegantly stated” - the opposite of the truth.

Someone unwilling to accept personal responsibility for his life is a bum, a deadbeat, a loser. Romney’s description was, if anything, more polite and more elegant.

Last week, Romney told Sean Hannity that his 47 percent statement was “completely wrong.” What is that supposed to mean? That he just discovered that the “47 percent” do accept personal responsibility for their lives after all? It makes no sense.

I think Romney is in many ways a decent man, but he has a deep-seated contempt for nearly half the American population. That showed in his relaxed, informal remarks - made before a friendly, like-minded crowd - about the “47 percent.” That was the real Romney talking.

We’ll see which Romney shows up at tonight’s debate. And whether Obama will take a page from Biden’s book.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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