Last November, it seemed as if the Republican Party in Delaware was done for good, with its apparatus, after already being battered in the 2008 election cycle, effectively destroyed by the insurgent U.S. senatorial campaign of far right social activist and, by all accounts, outright loon Christine O’Donnell. After losing in an earth slide to Democratic New Castle County Executive and self-described Marxist Chris Coons, as well as ending the distinguished career of moderate Republican congressman Mike Castle during their primary a few months earlier, she simply walked away from a scene of total political devastation; the effects of which were so far reaching that Tom Ross, the pro-Castle chairman of Delaware’s GOP, had to vacate his home due to a graphic death threat made by one of O’Donnell’s most ardent supporters.
Fast forward two and a half months.
Last Thursday, it seemed as if Timothy Sheldon was going to breeze through a special, but essentially noncompetitive race for the New Castle County Council presidency. Seeing as New Castle is by far and away Delaware’s most populous county, holding roughly two thirds of the state’s residents, and reliably Democratic as a result of, more or less, inner city Wilmington and the presence of several other impoverished municipalities to its south, he had absolutely no reason to worry — at least as far as conventional wisdom was concerned. That night, when the results of the election began to filter in, something which had not occurred since the late 1980s took place. The Republican, former State Representative Tom Kovach, who was ironically defeated in the autumn as a result of O’Donnell’s devastating down-ticket coattails, was actually leading. Many of the First State’s Democratic rank-and-file were initially hopeful that this would be little more than a fluke, but when all was said and done, Kovach indeed claimed victory — by a margin nearly identical to the one achieved by Coons over America’s Not-Quite-A-Witch.
How on Earth did this happen?
Kovach decided to do something truly extraordinary. Instead of running a campaign based on a narrow ideological agenda which the vast majority of his potential constituents would undoubtedly oppose, he opted to appeal to their concerns of drastically rising taxes and a lack of governmental transparency. His win is undeniable proof that the Republican brand can win in almost any locale, so long as the correct type of candidate is put in place. It also proves that, despite what one may hear from the shock jocks on certain talk radio programs, the future of the GOP lies not with political puritans such as Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, and the unfortunately new National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, but instead with sensible pragmatists like Scott Brown, Mark Kirk, and, now, Tom Kovach.
Let us hope that this message is received by the power brokers and primary electorate of the Republican Party before the inevitable circus that will be 2012 kicks into gear.
The stability of our nation’s political process depends on it.