Fall in line, or get left behind.
Top Republicans across the nation are taking a beating for falling in line behind presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, even as many of them condemn some of what Trump says or does. But falling in line is what you do in politics if you want to get ahead, and the practice is on full display in Delaware’s race for governor.
With the July 12 deadline fast approaching, no Democrat has officially filed to run for governor. Six Democrats, however, are vying for lieutenant governor. Delaware is one of 18 states in which the governor and lieutenant governor don’t run on a single slate. So how come so many Democrats want to be lieutenant governor but nobody wants to be governor?
Well, one person on the Democratic side wants to be governor. U.S. Rep. John Carney Jr. announced last September that he was running. But according to the state Department of Elections, no Democrats have yet officially filed.
Carney’s announcement came after the death of Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer. The son of Vice President Joe Biden had been expected to run. When Carney made his announcement, he said he had talked to the vice president and been encouraged to mount a campaign. Other top Democrats quickly followed suit, including U.S. senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and even current Gov. Jack Markell.
When you get endorsements from that many of the state’s top Democrats, it is pretty easy to see why no others have decided to throw their hat into the ring.
But having a system in which all the state’s top Democrats pretty much get to decide among themselves who will run for office shortchanges voters. We all saw the vigorous back-and-forths – sometimes devolving into comical spectacles – that came with the Republican presidential debates. But even the Democratic presidential contenders had some memorable moments in their debates.
In truth, when you have multiple candidates – even from the same party – fighting it out, you get a greater range of ideas and perspectives than if you anoint one person your standard-bearer from the beginning.
Hillary Clinton was the anointed one among the national Democratic power structure, but even she had to battle Bernie Sanders.
We need a Bernie Sanders candidate in the Democratic race for governor. Carney has great experience and is a strong candidate, to be sure, but that alone shouldn’t give him a free pass to the governor’s office.
The fact that six Democrats are running for the second highest job in the state speaks to their ambitions. The fact that none want to challenge the party’s anointed choice for governor, however, speaks to the power and reach of the party structure – and the limits that places on Democratic voters in Delaware.