The Election That Cried Wolf - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

By Celia Cohen

The Election That Cried Wolf

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The election for treasurer could be a race between a candidate who did not plan to run, but is, and a candidate who always plans to run, but has not.

There is is a significant amount of backing and filling here. Even for politics. Somewhere the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf is high-fiving.

Velda Jones-Potter is the un-lame duck who was not supposed to run. She is the Democrat who was appointed treasurer by Gov. Jack Markell to replace himself for the last two years of the term he left behind.

Colin Bonini is the human teabag who is constantly putting himself in and taking himself out. He is a Republican state senator who has been eyeballing statewide office almost as soon as he got to the Delaware General Assembly in 1994.

With the 2010 election about a year away, Jones-Potter and Bonini are the leading candidates for treasurer, a four-year post that comes with a political halo, otherwise lacking for the rest of the lesser statewide offices.

In the grouping of treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner, only treasurer seems to have an escape clause.

Markell emerged out of there. So did Tom Carper, the Democrat who made it to congressman, governor and senator. (There may still be hope for insurance commissioner. It was the previous stop for Matt Denn, who dwells as the Democratic lieutenant governor in the middle-world of statewide office that also includes the attorney general.)

If Jones-Potter has any excuse for her ricochet into candidacy, it is her newness to politics. She has been on the periphery but never in it herself.

Jones-Potter assumed office when the nearest model was Ted Kaufman, the Democratic senator appointed with a firm intention of two-years-and-out from the seat Joe Biden relinquished for vice president. There was another example, though -- Tom Wagner, the Republican auditor appointed in 1989 and then elected again and again and again and again and again. That one took.

"I will be running," Jones-Potter said, a message she conveyed Tuesday to her staff.

"I certainly was not necessarily expecting to be running for this office. I'm enjoying what I'm doing tremendously. I see the opportunity to have even more impact. This is an important time for us fiscally. My commitment to a well-managed treasury office is first and foremost."

Jones-Potter is a native Wilmingtonian who grew up in the projects, a P.S. du Pont High School graduate who enrolled at the University of Delaware in the first class of the FAME program -- Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering -- and became the first African-American woman to earn an engineering degree from the university.

After an MBA from the University of Indiana, she worked at the DuPont Co. for 17 years and also got her first taste of the public side as an executive-on-loan to Wilmington. She spent 18 months from 1995 to 1997 bringing order to the city's finance department and then returned to DuPont. She went later to MBNA before it was absorbed by Bank of America.

Her run for the treasurer could have complications enough to make Democrats grimace.

Chip Flowers, a lawyer from Middletown, also wants the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, Charles Potter Jr., a Democratic city councilman who is her husband, has some interest in taking on Harris McDowell Jr., the Democratic state senator, as he did in 2006. Matching wife-and-husband primaries could have messy repercussions.

Bonini has no one to blame but himself, as he readily acknowledges, for his reputation as an off-year candidate, someone who talks up running in odd-numbered years for higher office but is long gone by the filing deadline in the even-numbered election years.

"If I am not on that ballot, I will never bother anybody about statewide office again," Bonini said.

Bonini is a twin who moved to Dover from California. He is a cheery backbencher who competes with Bob Venables, a Laurel Democrat, as the most conservative state senator, with Bonini known more as a free-marketplace, fiscal conservative and Venables as a social conservative. If there is one vote against the state budget, Bonini is bound to be the senator who cast it.

Bonini is a hefty fellow who once turned a diet into a charity event he called "Pounds for Hounds," taking pledges to the Kent County SPCA for his weight loss.

Bonini is his own complication to a campaign for treasurer. This comes from fantasizing twice about a race for the U.S. Senate -- against Biden in 1996 and Carper in 2006 -- and once for lieutenant governor when it was open in 2008.

All candidacies Walter Mitty could love.

This time Bonini insists he means it. The circumstances are favorable. He is in the middle of his term and does not have to resign to run, and there is no telling when the Republicans will ever again have such strength at the top of their ticket with Congressman Mike Castle running for the U.S. Senate.

"I know I'm a really big underdog. I get it. But I think a message of fiscal conservatism is really going to resonate," Bonini said.

Bonini marched in the Halloween parade in Newark last weekend as Captain Kirk -- "Set phasers on the state budget, baby!" --  and more importantly, he has scheduled a fund-raiser, to be hosted Nov. 18 by Pete du Pont, the former governor, and Michele Rollins, the business executive, at her estate in Chateau Country.

It pays to remember that Bonini has gone this far before, when visions of statewide office first danced in his head. Pete du Pont opened 'Patterns," his home in Rockland, for an equally impressive fund-raiser for one of Bonini's senatorial campaigns that never materialized. That event was just about the same time -- Nov. 15, 1995.

Another odd-numbered year. Naturally.

Whatever happens, Bonini is bringing a certain delight to the Republicans. As state Chair Tom Ross noted wittily, "He's too big to fail."

Bonini is distributing a tiny political button that reads, "Please vote Bonini treasurer." It can always go into a drawer with the nail file from last year for Bonini for lieutenant governor.


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