Skip to comments.How Republicans Should Handle Things-A Local Microcosm With National Implications
Posted on 05/07/2007 5:11:54 PM PDT by Fishtalk
How Republicans Should Handle Things-A Local Microcosm With National Implications =================================================================================
Yesterday, on 5/5/07, a little known individual known as Greg Hastings won a special election to represent Delaware's 41 district in Delaware's capital, Dover.
There had been another fellow holding that job, having been legally and eagerly elected by the local populace. His name is John Atkins.
How the saga of John Atkins evolved and dissolved and how the Republican party of Sussex county handled John Atkins and got another Republican, aforementioned Greg Hastings, is a model for Republicans across the fruited plains in terms of rogue GOP elected officials, the dismissal of same and gasp, actually winning an election. This small, little-noticed election in the swamps of Delaware played as a dramatic microcosm of political chicanery, elected bad behavior, a new way to communicate and the down and dirty on winning the vote. For without winning the vote, there is nothing, absolutely nothing,-not nobility, not winning ideas, not sparkling idealology- which can be presented and voted on in the democratic forum.
Republicans tend to forget this from time to time.
So John Atkins is a young fellow and was beloved by his district. Only Mr. Atkins got himself a bit on the inebriated side in a bar in a ocean-side resort known as Ocean City near Atkins' district but in the state of Maryland. The details of Atkins' night of debauchery are blurry and confusing, the pursuit of truth not helped by Atkins' constant lies and obfuscations. At any rate, Atkins', allegedly drunk, still got into his car and decided to drive home. He was stopped by Ocean City police and the first thing Atkins did is confront the OC police as to his identity and the importance of his own fine self. It was a "Do you know who I am" moment. The OC police, perhaps young fellows themselves and concerned with this big political fish they managed to catch, didn't bring Atkins in to the station. Nor did they arrest Atkins, impound his car, or even issue a ticket, all things they surely would have done to our drunken driving selves but let's allow that these types of things go on and let's allow that Atkins' brazen demand that his status as an elected Delaware big kahuna allow him freedom to also be the sort of thing that happens.
The OC police did, as I understand it, demand that Atkins call some friends to drive his car home because, ahem, the man was drunk. So thank goodness for that. Again, as I understand, some friends or relatives of Atkins showed up and the OC police were satisfied and allowed Atkins to go home so long as he wasn't driving. Allegedly, after the OC police left the scene, Atkins told his friends to forget about it, that he was fine and he would drive himself home. Which he did. Indeed. Even though the man was allowed one get-out-of-jail-free card, he still got behind that wheel and drove himself home. Allegedly.
But it doesn't stop there! Goodness no. Allegedly Atkins had some domestic problems. I'm not sure if the domestic problems happened the same night or at another time but what happened, somebody in the Atkins' house phoned the police emergency line but hung up before speaking to anyone. As is normal procedure, police were sent to his home anyway. Atkins' wife then said the phone call was a mistake on her part. Allegedly.
The Atkins' story goes on and on, involving his demand for his babysitter to lie to investigators and goodness knows the Delaware House of Reps Ethics Committee knows much more and the story gets released in dribs and drabs just when us stupid Delaware citizens think we've heard it all.
The Atkins' tale of drink and domestic problems went on and on over the local air waves here in Delaware and the whole constantly ongoing and changing story was destroying the credibility of the Republican party throughout the state, but especially in Sussex County..
A little background now on Delaware's Sussex county, even Delaware itself.
Delaware is a "blue" state. It's blue in that the state went Democratic in the last presidential election but do not be fooled. Delaware is a very, very light blue and every day it becomes lighter. This is because one of Delaware's three counties, Sussex county, is red, very, very red. For Sussex county Delaware has been recipient of mid-life immigrants from nearby Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These immigrants mostly moved to Delaware to enjoy the mild climate of Sussex county Delaware, the space and lack of urban sprawl and the very cheap property taxes. See the Delaware politicos never bothered much with the property taxes in its largest county (indeed the largest county east of the Mississippi) because...well once upon a time there weren't very many homeowners in Sussex county Delaware. Now that there's been an explosion of home building in Sussex county, the politicos could slap theirselves silly. Because to try and reach into the pockets of these new residents, most already suspect of liberal intrusive governments having experienced same in their home states, is a tricky maneuver. The newer residents of Sussex county are savvy and ready to fight for their safety from the government that would tax them back to Maryland, New Jersey or Pennsylvania levels.
The northern politicians in Delaware, ie , heh, Joe Biden and his ilk, dislike Sussex County intensely. In fact, Delaware's Governor, Ruth Minner, declared Sussex county to be "enemy territory" during the last election. Which is fine because Sussex countians dislike Nanny Minner a whole bunch. We tolerate Delaware's one and only representative to the House, Mike Castle, a Republican with suspect Conservative values. We don't like Joe Biden at all and often refer to him as "Hairplugs". Tom Carper is a Democratic Senator and Joe Biden's partner in crime.
Thus Sussex county grows in population every day. Sussex county forms clubs and organizations. Sussex county churches are filled to the brim on days of worship. Sussex county is also home to Delaware's big ocean-front area: Rehoboth, Dewey and Bethany Beaches. Thus, heh, Sussex county brings in many bucks to Delaware.
Sussex county is a force to be reckoned with. The Wilmington politicians really hate this.
I believe there is only one major Democratic politician in Sussex county and he is, heh, a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). Beyond this, Sussex county is held firmly and tenaciously by the Republican party.
The drama that was John Atkins was a test. For the Democrats danced with joy that a Republican was in so much trouble in Sussex county and hey, it was their chance. With this crack in the armor, maybe the Democrats could gain a foothold in that bastion of stubborn American individuals who give liberal politicos such grief.
The head of the Sussex County Republican party is a young fellow, Dave Burris. Burris comes from a political family, his father having once ran for Governor. Dave Burris is a Blogger, a fact which endears him to me but sparks suspicion in the hearts of elder Sussex countians who suspect anything different as being a liberal plot to take over the world.
It would turn out that the John Atkins' exploits and lies were casting aspersions on the Republican party in general and preventing the Republican party's agenda from going anywhere in Dover. John Atkins was too quickly becoming the face of the Republican party in Sussex county and he was nothing like the many fine Republican office-holders in this county, most of them businessmen and citizens of a high caliber. A much higher caliber individual than the Democrats up north but hey, that's this Blogger's opinion, take it for what it's worth.
Dave Burris did something really strange. He sent out a mass email to all Sussex county Republicans. In the email he asked that Sussex county Republicans band together and demand that John Atkins resign.
I was shocked when that email came into my Ebox. What happened to Ronaldus Reagan's 11th commandment: Never Talk Bad About a Fellow Republican? Not that I wasn't intrigued by Burris' email in that manner of a human being leaning over a bit too far to hear the latest gossip. Of course I'd been hearing about the Atkins' saga every day via the local newspapers and radio stations. Such events as this are the delight of the journalists. According to the Burris email, however, it turns out that not only was Atkins guilty of the bad behavior which he was denying to anyone who would listen, he was also out and about and carousing in the bars even WHILE the Delaware House Ethics Committee was meeting to decide what to do with him. I, frankly, was disgusted. I mean, couldn't the man keep a low profile at least until the storm blew over? Further, according to Burris' email, Atkins showed no remorse about his behavior but instead was railing about the many Democrats in the House guilty of much worse behavior than he. Which I believe because Democrats are known far and wide for their bad behavior, witness their President Bill Clinton. This factoid does not, however, absolve Atkins of his drinking, driving, lying and bad behavior and it was Atkins who was under scrutiny, NOT the other Democrats which John complained about. Dave Burris' email was a call for Atkins' fellow Republicans to push for an expulsion of Atkins from the Delaware House of Representatives, an action they didn't want to do, read that Reagan commandment again.
In short, Sussex county Republicans really wanted Atkins to express remorse, stop the adolescent behavior and move on. Atkins, on the other hand, was full of himself, cockey and in general annoying. Again, this is all this Blogger's assessment although I did have access to some inside stuff in all this which I'll detail in a bit.
The Republicans coalesced in response to Burris' mass email to...well to the masses. This was likely discussed earlier with all concerned but I've no proof of this. The plan was, the Republicans, a majority in Delaware's House of Representative, were going to call for Atkins' resignation and they had the numbers to do it. Atkins, knowing this was going to happen, resigned.
God Bless Him.
But Atkins didn't resign out of a goodness in his heart, let's not fool ourselves. He resigned because Delaware Republicans, especially those in Sussex county, were sick of him. Atkins knew if he didn't resign he was going to get kicked out. Burris' email was the catapault which united the more ordinary Republicans in Sussex county...ie...not just the elected elite.
Now this action by Dave Burris brought a lot of criticism down on his head and Dave Burris was a)new to the position and b)a Blogger, a very suspect sort of thing to be by Conservative Sussex county standards. His mass email of criticism of a fellow Republican was not greeted with cheers and enthusiasm. And while many Sussex county Republicans were disgusted by Atkins' shenanigans and the result of taking up all the oxygen in the political atmosphere, these same Sussex county Republicans were not necessarily convinced that Burris' method of handling the matter was the way to go.
So the Republican party of Sussex county held its monthly meeting at Deltech Community College and the turnout was huge. Dave Atkins was in attendance that night although I didn't know it. I too was in attendance and goodness, I was only there because it was the first time I attended these monthly meetings. I had no idea of the drama about to unfold.
For the plan was for Dave Burris to obtain either a vote of confidence by the attendees at this monthly meeting or a vote of NO confidence. It was not possible for a motion to be made to remove Dave Burris from office followed up by a vote of the membership. Something about parliamentary procedures. Dave could, as he explained, ask for a vote of confidence and before said vote, he agreed to abide by the prevailing vote.
The press was kicked out of this meeting and hey, they were there. They were not, however, supposed to be in an actual Republican party meeting as this was not a public thing yon reader should understand. After all this, a vote was taken....Do We Want Dave Burris to Continue As Head of the Sussex County GOP....or NOT?
It must be understood that the northern Republicans, including the Delaware GOP Head, also did not quite approve of this action by Dave Burris. Although I have no proof of this beyond rumor. I am a member of the Sussex County Republican Women's Club, a very powerful organization which brings in BIG bucks for the Republican party and hey, we're in Sussex County.....basket of Conservative politics. I'd heard about disapproval from the northern GOP bigwigs via my meetings at the SCRWC but admittedly it was mostly rumor. Terry Strine, head of the Delaware Republican party, did not tell me this himself is what I'm saying here. I'm also saying, believe at your own risk, that if it's said at the SCRWC meeting, it's probably true. Yon reader can decide.
So I'm not sure if the confidence vote was done to satisfy the mighty northern Republicans that all of Sussex County is behind Burris or if it was solely Burris' idea. Whatever the reason, Dave Burris wanted this vote of confidence and he got it. All attendees that night voted UNANIMOUSLY to keep Dave Burris as head of the Sussex County Republican party. Take that you northern RINO Republicans and friends of Mike Castle.
Thank goodness the press was out of the room because there ensued a rather nasty discussion of which yours Blogger truly here was part of, although I was an innocent and naive as the wind-driven snow. For I did not know that John Atkins was in the room although in hindsight I had to wonder why it didn't occur to me. But didn't I stand right up and as part of my defense of a "confidence" vote for Dave Burris, and excoriate John Atkins, at one point using the word "reprehensible"? Like I said, I didn't know the man was sitting right there, two rows down from me. Heh.
Well Mr. Atkins didn't like my damning adjective and he went on to defend himself against the allegations in Burris' email. Burris then stepped up and said, adamantly and so sober that hey, I believed him, that he would personally stand by every word in his email. Of course I had to respond to Mr. Atkins' anger at me but not so fast, m'lady, not so fast. First we had to have everyone vote if I could speak again as there were others who hadn't spoken yet at all. I suspect that the crowd was enjoying the verbal joust fest in which I found myself although I rarely lose this sort of thing. Heh.
They voted to let me speak again and I did. While I think my fine but harsh words helped Burris get that confidence vote, in the end I wonder if I didn't do more harm than good. Although I'll gladly accept any commentary that I made no impact at all on the result as likely as true as anything. But I did mention that Atkins' continual bad behavior plus his refusal to walk off quietly into that good night could effectively eviscerate the Republican party in Sussex county. I fear that this comment might have put wild ideas in Atkins' head although again, I sure hope not.
Atkins knew that the confidence vote for Dave Burris meant his time was up. His only chance was to somehow get Burris kicked out of there. In the weeks leading up to the replacement election, Atkins embarked upon a major write-in campaign, somehow convincing many formerly intelligent voters in the 41st district that he was the victim of an upstate Republican smear campaign, something that couldn't be further from the truth. A replacement candidate was found, a fine fellow named Greg Hastings, a prominent business leader, family man with two sons who were Eagle Scouts, a member of the local school board for yea many years. The Democrats smelled blood. They were like sharks in the water, circling the wounded prey, which would be the Republican party. If the Democrats could get a foothold in a major Sussex county district well maybe they could promise enough free stuff to slowly turn all of Sussex county into Democrat land. A former Mayor of Atkins' district's major town was pulled out of moth balls and polished up. His name was Lynn Bullock.
From what I've heard of Mr. Lynn Bullock, he was a respected Mayor and well-liked by his constituents. And while he was aligned with the party of the donkey, his constituency was largely conservative and if he did really serve them well than he likely governed conservatively. At least as I speculate as this was well before my life in Delaware.
Only Bullock's candidacy was crafted and created by the Democrats up in Wilmington and, indeed, Bullock's only fundraiser was held in Dover, far from the district in question, and the attendees were mostly lobbyists. Bullock's candidacy was hardly a local event driven by the grass root Democrats of the 41st district. Meanwhile, the lovely John Atkins, who is history on this day might I add, was out and about and stroking up the populace for write in votes. Rumors flew and one prominent one was that Atkins was being financed in his campaign of disruption (for surely he knew he simply could NOT win) by the Democratic party. Well Democrats are known for this sort of thing all across the fruited plains but whatever the reason, Atkins was just being nasty and hard-nosed. First....HE ALREADY RESIGNED! I mean, I want to ask the fools who voted for him, did he mean it when he resigned? Was he lying when he said he was sorry for his bad behavior? Then he runs again, against his former party that was so good to him, he ran again against that party's candidate. Why would anyone waste their precious vote for someone so obviously a liar and a turncoat?
As Greg Hastings was groomed and trained to be an office holder, as the replacement election loomed, as the two weeks until the big day crept up, Sussex county Republican spirits waffled. The Democrats were throwing everything they could to take that seat. Add to the fear, the Republican/Democrat ratio in the Delaware house was 22/19. If the Republicans lost the 41st district, the ratio would then be 21/20. It would take but one Republican to be tempted by offers to turn Democrat, a la Patrick Leahey of national fame, and the Delaware House of Representatives would be turned over to Democratic control. Mighty Sussex county would be tromped to nothingness.
I was disspirited and resigned to a bad outcome from all of this. I regretted my words at that meeting when I feared I might have put ideas into Atkins' head. Even though he probably didn't remember me from Adam, it's the way one thinks in moments of despair.
Then something amazing happened.
The ads started running.
A former Independent who ran for Senator as an alternative to disgruntled Republicans, particularly disgruntled Sussex county Republicans, came out with a smashing endorsement of Greg Hastings. The Republican Nominee for Governor in 2006 also endorsed Hastings.
Better, ads lambasting the Democratic party and Lynn Bullock in particular, begin filling the radio air waves.
The killer ad warned voters in District 41 that the Democrats have been chomping at the bit to get into Sussex county. "They resent your low property taxes and would love to get a bite out of them" as the ad paraphrased. Another killer ad, a stomping, rip-roaring murdering ad, warned District 41 voters that Lynn Bullock supported a local proposition that would allow cloning of humans AND yet another bill that would support federally funded EMBRYONIC stem cell research.
Sussex Countians despise cloning and embryonic stem cell research, as does most of Delaware frankly. The politicos in Wilmington keep trying to pull the wool over the voters' eyeballs by creating confusing language in bills they want to pass. Few in Delaware embrace cloning and the use of embryos but it would seem that quite a few Delaware politicians, including REPUBLICAN Mike Castle, think the federal government should be funding such research. The notion of Republicans supporting this notion does not sit well with Republicans in the south of Delaware. The ads pointing out the overwhelming Democratic support for this were killers for Lynn Bullock.
Another great ad featured a short, sound byte of Lynn Bullock. Indeed three candidates, Bullock, Hastings and the Independent, Butler, had all engaged in a debate over the local talk radio air waves. Hastings had been well-couched and while he wasn't running over with charisma, his responses were thoughtful, cautious and well-presented. Further, if Hastings didn't have a position on a question he didn't hesitate to suggest that he would have to think more about it before taking a stand. I like this in a politician. I'd much rather have a politician suggest more thought on a matter than take a position that would later have him or her speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Lynn Bullock did a fine job but it was very evident that he was a Democrat and very liberal. The Independent was just that, independent and lost in the crowd.
I don't know which debate question Bullock was answering, but at one point he said the words "I don't expect to get much done in Dover". Whatever Bullock was responding to, those words were taken from his response and played over and over in one Sussex county Republican ad. It was great.
Oh sure, the Dems complained that Bullock's words were taken out of context and hey, I don't know, they probably were. I can't believe a politician just up and said they didn't expect to get much done. But Bullock said it and some very smart pubbies pulled it out of the debate-speak and made it into a scathing anti-Bullock ad. For who wants to vote for a candidate who openly admitted he wouldn't get much done?
Folks, the onslought of those political ads, most paid for by the Sussex county Republican party...ie Dave Burris, were great. At times I danced and sang as they were played over the local air waves...over and over and over and over.
I knew that Dave Burris was determined to bring this election home for the pubbies and damned if he didn't.
Of course there was a HUGE grass roots campaign in district 41, a grass roots campaign orchestrated by quite a few of my own co-SCRWC members. I didn't help with that campaign because a)I don't live in the 41 district and b)I feared my big mouth had done enough damage already.
So the moral of all this verbiage is that if anyone thinks that Republicans should allow out-of-control fellow Republicans drink themselves silly and be, in general, lying lawbreakers while pointing the finger to similar behaving Democrats as justification, such thinking is just plain wrong. Ronaldaldus Maximus' famous 11th commandment applies in limited situations. John Atkins was sucking all the political oxygen out of the air and the man didn't even have the maturity and decency to at least keep a low profile while the Delaware House Ethics Committee was leaking all sorts of stuff to the press. He was making every serious Republican from Sussex county look as shallow as him. I don't care if the Democrats in the Delaware House behave ten times worse than John Atkins on a good day, John Atkins was an embarrassment and as Sussex county struggles to get the respect this mighty county deserves, we don't need the likes of Atkins sullying the political surround. Besides, after the blow dealt to Atkins, how are the Democrats going to defend their own drunkards and carousers?
The second moral is this notion that Republicans should stand by stoicly while the opposition party lies, obsfucates and takes everything a Republican says out of context is total nonsense. Who would play a game of Monopoly if the other player is allowed twice the money? The rules are the rules and playing by two sets of rules is silly beyond belief. Indeed the United States of American is based on the concept of equality of all humans. So why does the Republican party think it makes them somehow more noble to accept shackles on everything it does whilst the Democrats laugh and take advantage of such pristine and silly notions?
The Republican party did not tell one lie about Lynn Bullock. The Republican party did point out the Democratic history of taxing and that bit about supporting embryonic stem cell research. The Democrats have this rule that when the Republicans tell the truth about them the Republicans are somehow cheating. What's even more enrageing, those blow-dried fools in the national Senate House of Lords actually accept this nonsense.
So in a small county in Delaware, the Republican party did something the entrenched Lords in the national Republican party could learn from. They banded together, threw out the garbage, and got a new Republican elected. Against all odds, against everything the well-financed Democrats could throw at them, against a disgruntled former ill-behaved Republican who will now go down in the ash heap of Sussex county history.
The state of Delaware, if nowhere else, will now sit up and take notice of the power of Republican conservatives who take themselves quite seriously.
Kudos to Dave Burris. It's a new day dawning.
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