So. Who Will Be the Next Speaker of the House?

Filed in National by on November 20, 2012

Today’s bare-bones News-Journal story reports that both Pete Schwartzkopf and Helene Keeley are seeking the position. The News-Journal does not report that each candidate has a slate. If my sources are correct, and it’s not certain that they are, each slate has at least one major head-scratcher on it. Here they are:

Speaker: Pete Schwartzkopf
Majority Leader: Valerie Longhurst (??!!)
Majority Whip: Quin Johnson


Speaker: Helene Keeley
Majority Leader: Bryon Short
Majority Whip: John Viola (??!!)

I don’t know who will win, but I believe that this contest represents the first clear emergence of different factions within the Caucus. It happens when you have overwhelming numbers. Then-Rep. Jane Maroney once told me, “There is something to be said against having too many people in your caucus.” That was when the R’s had something like 29, and I think she’s right. Speaker Gilligan was clearly the institutional memory of the House and the one guy around whom everyone could rally. With his absence, you are now seeing alliances of convenience.  While I would make Helene the slight favorite here, based on the overwhelming NCC and Wilmington numbers in the caucus, keep in mind that it’s all about promises made. You can bet that people have been promised committee chairs, especially the money committees, membership on JFC, etc. Both sides think they have the votes, which tells me that the same people are pledging their votes to each side, and some people are still looking for some kind of legislative plum in exchange for their vote.

BTW, while I can’t fathom why someone so universally distrusted as Valerie Longhurst is on Schwartzkopf’s ticket, I do understand why Viola is on Keeley’s team. You get the votes of two profoundly-undistinguished legislators for the price of one. Geez, could it all come down to the vote of…Lumpy Carson?

BTW, BTW, contrary to the News-Journal article, everything points to Patti Blevins and Karen Peterson having cut a deal that will ensure Blevins’ elevation to President Pro-Tem of the Delaware State Senate. Celia Cohen has written it, and that’s what I’ve been told as well.  I  hope that the deal increases the influence of Peterson and Dave Sokola within the caucus. I could live with that.

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  1. Jason330 says:

    Two questions… What does a Schwartzkopf vs a Keeley win mean in terms of what legislation gets passed? Does one slate look more likely to do something interesting (good or bad) to you?

  2. anon says:

    Im afraid if Keeley wins, the House Ds will inherit the problem the Senate Ds had with Deluca of defending her state job with the Labor Dept. constantly in the media. Being Speaker IS A FULL TIME JOB.
    And I would guess Carson being from below the canal is solid in Petes camp. Yes….no?

  3. SussexDem40 says:

    Viola and Keeley both work at the Labor Department, so they would both face the same scrutiny. and generally negative public perception, as DeLuca.

  4. Jason330 says:

    “(Keeley) worked to establish the needle exchange program in the City of Wilmington and the state wide Foreclosure Mediation program to assist homeowners facing foreclosure. She is currently working to regulate pay day loans in the state.”

    All goo stuff from her offical bio.

    I also see Keeley did some marketing for the Labor Department. I don’t know what that means, but it gave me a chuckle.

  5. CR says:

    A member of the Peterson camp mentioned casually in conversation to me over a week ago that Blevins would be the next Senate President as if it was a foregone conclusion, so I too assume a deal is already in place.

  6. Geezer says:

    Is Blevins still the head of Delaware Helpline? It might not fit into an anti-union narrative, but she owes her job to her legislative position just as much as Viola and Keeley do.

  7. dogbert32 says:

    @Jason330 Who do you think will be more vindictive towards those who did not vote for them? I think that will have one of the largest impacts on the legislation that gets passed. I think that it could also have an effect on the unity of the Democratic Causas, which could potentially be an even worse consequence.

  8. NewCastleAnon says:

    I would have thought that Tony DeLuca and Joe Booth would together have taught both caucuses that ‘double-dipping’ is the one clear radioactive issue in Delaware politics. Just as the Senate Democratic caucus is putting that issue behind it with new leadership, why would the House Democratic caucus want to stick itself with that albatross? Whatever promises have been made, that just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

    Also, in the long run, if the Democrats give up on Sussex County, that’s a formula for eventual loss of their majority. They need Sussex County leadership.

  9. Painesme says:

    Something tells me these tickets will break down. I think we wind up with Pete as speaker, overlooking that he’s a downstater and made some bad moves with the manufactured homes and casino bills. He’s been a very effective Majority Leader, and I think he’s also our best bet for progressive legislation being kept on the agenda.

    But, from what I hear, Pete’s put a little space between himself and Val. Don’t be surprised if things don’t go according to the slate plan.

  10. dogbert32 says:

    Schwartzkopf is the best bet for progressive legislation? When you are not a progressive at all and your best friend in your causas is a “former” Republican, yeah, I’m sure you are going to have progressive legislation…

  11. Bookkeeper's Son says:

    @Geezer. I believe Blevins left Helpline about a year ago.

  12. There’s double-dipping, and then there’s double-dipping.

    Both DeLuca and Booth had jobs created just for them. Jobs that did not exist prior to someone creating jobs just for them.

    I’m not saying that Keeley wouldn’t come under the microscope for her job, but it’s totally different. I mean, the new speaker replaces Bob Gilligan, who has had a job at Del-Tech forever.

    Oh, and, Pete Schwartzkopf already has one state pension under his belt as a state trooper.

  13. SussexWatcher says:

    It’s Pete, Longhurst and Viola. And Blevins in the Senate.

  14. The House D’s really screwed the pooch. Looks like the profoundly-undistinguished Viola and his equally undistinguished daughter broke their word and double-crossed Keeley.

    Pete will be a good speaker, but Longhurst and Viola are lying hacks.

  15. dogbert32 says:

    A good speaker? Yeah, let’s see how many bills he lets get to the floor by those who opposed him.

  16. I would LOVE to find out who voted for whom, and what the final vote total was…but I don’t think that info will ever leak out. It’s not like the Senate vote, where it was done in open session.

    Keep in mind, though, that a significant preponderance of the bills come from the administration, and Pete is Markell’s guy in the House.

    I don’t expect the type of retribution you mentioned b/c the committees will do their work, and Pete can’t run the House the way that Uncle Thurm ran the Senate. I don’t think he’d want to.

    I AM, however, gonna look closely at those committee assignments. One immediate negative: Delaware’s most ‘law-abiding’ representative will almost certainly be on the corrections committee, if not the chair.

  17. SussexWatcher says:

    Hard for the party to preach transparency when it’s doing everything in secret. Just sayin’.

  18. Jason330 says:

    Adkins to chair the corrections committee. That’s funny. He was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit On the fatefull night that came to nothing,

  19. SussexWatcher says:

    Atkins was already vice-chair of corrections. What’s the big deal? Yeah, he shouldn’t have anything to do with that, but it’s not like it’s a new stupidity.

  20. just asking? says:

    So just how powerful is the Chair of Corrections? Doesn’t all funding come through JFC? What muscle does this committee chair have?

  21. He has been able to get prison labor for his father-in-law’s farm with no paperwork through the Department of Corrections. We don’t even know if the workers were paid. We DO know that he falsely tried to blame them when they set fire to the tractor tires he wanted destroyed.

    He can bring his son over to the prison any time he feels like it.

    His wife works there.

    The Department of Corrections, especially in Sussex, has proven, time and time again, to be incompetent and perhaps corrupt.

    So, let’s see. Conflict-of-interest, no verification of compliance with state law, and a sense of entitlement that he runs the place.

    Other than that, no big deal.

  22. SussexWatcher says:

    Yeah, we know all that. Again, he’s already on the committee. So why are you acting like Speaker Pete is pushing through a plum assignment for his pal?

  23. CrazyDem says:

    I heard that the vote for speaker was 14-13 and it was Rep Dennis Williams who flipped. Also the vote for majority leader was also 14-13 for Longhurst. The caucus is facture and that will be the biggest challenge for Pete to keep them together! Viola election was an effort to keep Pete and Val honest to the caucus wishes versus the Governor’s. It will be interesting to see what promises were made. Rep Smith will be the next Joint Finance Chair.

  24. Assuming that what CrazyDem wrote is true, then Dennis E. Williams has signed his political death warrant. Labor was supporting Keeley. Dennis E. Williams doesn’t ever get elected w/o the unrelenting support of labor. I know. I was there in 2008. He won’t make it out of a primary in 2014.

    Plus, if true, he broke his word to his fellow legislators and sold them out. Which ultimately is the only thing for which he will be remembered.

    SW: The point is, that Atkins would be nowhere near the corrections committee with Keeley as Speaker. And he shouldn’t be.

  25. The Straight Scoop says:

    So much speculation from people who “heard” things… And then basing analysis of politicians’ future on that speculation. I realize that when dealing with the contents of a secret meeting it’s tough to figure things out, but I honestly think we’re jumping about 10 steps down what could very possibly be the wrong path.

  26. CrazyDem says:

    Just receive an email with the list of Pete’s supporters: Akins, Barbieri, Bolden, Hefferman, Johnson & Johnson, Longhurst, Paradee, Potter, Schwartzkopf, Smith, Walker, and Willams & Williams. If this list is correct then Pete is going to have a harder job that Gilligan keeping this group together. Also looks like Mayor Williams and Speaker Gilligan had a lot to do with the vote!! Pete will need to reach out to those non-supporters when he makes committee assignments or he will be in a losing battle for the next two years.

  27. There’s a reason they call it ‘hardball’.

    I have no real problem with Gilligan’s and Mayor Williams’ involvement, if indeed that’s accurate. They’re entitled to try to influence the vote just as much as anybody else. I have no real problem with how people voted. They each have a vote, and they’re entitled to use it as they see fit.

    I have a REAL problem with Dennis E. Williams’ flipping. And, yes, I’ve been on the phone and have been working on this. Either it’s true, or people who have never lied to me before are lying to me now. I think it can now be said:


  28. SussexDem40 says:

    How can you blame Dennie E. Williams. Yesterday you wrote that Viola and Andria Bennett lied and double-crossed Keeley. Now it’s Dennis E. Williams. Let’s just acknowledge that we have no idea. Really, the way I see it Helene lost because she got no support from the Wilmington delegation. You would think they would have wanted a Speaker from Wilmington.

  29. SussexDem40 says:

    Also, Atkins will be chair of the Agriculture committee. There is no reason to think JJ Johnson will not again be the Chair of Corrections.

  30. SED says:

    Pete Schwartzkopf was the front runner for Speaker of the House from the beginning. Not to mention Valerie Longhurst was riding shot-gun for Majority Leader thanks largely to Schwartzkopf’s thunder. But John Viola winning for Majority Whip that was very interesting. The real question who is going to be the new JFC Chairman on the House side (since Dennis P. Williams became Mayor of Wilmington).

    Any thoughts of potential people to replace Mayor Williams old post?

  31. I think it’ll be Melanie George Marshall. She was a Pete supporter, and she’d do a great job.

    SD40: I admit that I was speculating when I said that the Violas must have flipped.

    What I have been told now is that Viola was put in there with the support of the labor faction as a counterbalance to the top two in leadership. So, I was WRONG that he had flipped. Doesn’t make me any more impressed with his ‘talents’.

    But, Dennis E. Williams gave his word and then reneged. That’s a whole ‘nother ballgame, and that’s the ONLY thing about this deal that bothers me. But, it really bothers me. If you’re not as good as your word, then why should anybody trust you?

  32. anon says:

    You forgot Brady and Potter were also in Petes camp. Pete and Val received 16 votes, not 14. The only vote out of Wilmington she got was her own, thats what happens when you endorse Kelly over Dennis Williams for Mayor of Wilmington.

  33. I think you’re incorrect. Neither Viola flipped, Viola was just added on as Whip as a sop to the labor folks. After Schwartzkopf and Longhurst had been chosen.

    I’m pretty sure that Gerald Brady was with Keeley. At least, according to CrazyDem’s list. Potter and Bolden were with Pete. I admit, though, that I don’t know who was on which side. Just that multiple credible sources told me it was 14-13. And that Dennis E. Williams was the decisive vote b/c he had pledged his vote to the Keeley/Short ticket.

  34. anon says:

    Im positive it was 16. Brady was with Pete. I talked to him. He will be the Chair of Veteran Affairs replacing Jaques because he bet on the wrong horse. I was also told that D.E. Williams would not return Keeleys calls, thus supporting my notion that he was with Pete.

  35. Well, I’ve got multiple sources that say it was 14-13.

    While I’m sure that neither Pete nor Helene will talk, there are people in the caucus who are obviously talking to selected sources, including me.

  36. anon says:

    Did you talk to the person who counted the votes? I did.

  37. dogbert32 says:

    I heard 14-13 from several people as well.

  38. jenl says:

    I heard from someone that D.E. Williams may have been with Short but not the others. I heard that the votes for each spot were likely not exactly the same people.

  39. SANDFLY says:

    It was the person stabbed in the back for the Joint Finance chairmanship. The Damsel that believed so much in seniority was handing this same chairmanship to a less senior member and that was her undoing. Bud Feel’s coalition with his city damsel did not secure one city vote. They almost pulled it off with a person with no grace or negotiating skills. She was the type “what’s in it for me” attitude that turned many political associates off. In this situation, it worked out for all our citizens. God is good.

  40. The Straight Scoop says:

    I heard that there were 27 Reps there and they all voted. Can we move on from this rampant speculation and trying to trump each other with who has the best “sources” for vote totals and reasons for voting?

    There’s a good post about legislative priorities that has less than a quarter the number of comments posted here. Speculation and supposed infighting is more interesting than an action plan? What are we, Republicans?

  41. You know, people can respond to more than one thread.

    But thank you for telling us what our priorities should be.

  42. duty says:

    “I think you’re incorrect. Neither Viola flipped, Viola was just added on as Whip as a sop to the labor folks.”

    ElSom – are you saying special interest groups are calling the shots?

  43. Labor is/was a key player in all this. Since as far back as I can remember, they’ve been a key part of the Democratic coalition. And, yes, they supported Keeley’s candidacy.

    Special interest groups, as you call them, comprise huge portions of both major parties’ political base. When it comes to special interest groups, I tend to prefer those who represent working families over, say, tax-avoiding billionaires.

    Not that I’ve been a labor shill here. Otherwise, I’d have been all in for Tony DeLuca. And John Carney over Jack Markell.

    Let me turn it around. Are you shocked that special interest groups are influential in politics? And that labor is influential in Democratic politics?

  44. duty says:

    No not at all, and I agree with you. I am not in the inner circle of either party so I was interested in how much say they have in these types of decisions.

  45. I think it’s less ‘say’ than it is the degree to which different groups have different legislators’ ears.

    BTW, this is the third time that this has happened in my memory. Harris McDowell flipped his vote back in 2003 to Adams/DeLuca, enabling the two obstructionists to win over a more progressive slate.

    And Colin Bonini gave his deciding vote to DeLuca in 2010, the only R to do so, and that enabled DeLuca/Blevins to win over a more progressive slate.

    I think I’ve made a point of blistering each of them whenever I’ve had the opportunity. Dennis E. Williams, who I had praised for his progressive positions on certain issues, now joins the ranks of those two. When McDowell did it, it marked the final abandonment of his progressive principles which, up until then, I had admired.

    Two things, and only two things, bother me about Williams’ flip. (1): He broke his word, something legislators do at their own risk, and (2) it results in Valerie Longhurst, who I know firsthand to be a liar and who I consider someone unsuited to hold public office, much less a leadership position, becoming Majority Leader. Not good for the Democrats, and especially not good for progressive Democrats.

  46. dogbert32 says:

    El Somnambulo, thank you for that analysis. I feel the same way.

    Personally, I just hope that the leadership will not be as vindictive as they have been in the past or indicated they would be in the future. The Democratic Caucus cannot not allow the House to become a 3-party body. It is all going to depend on how Schwartzkopf chooses to act.

  47. JConnor says:

    Those that don’t know talk, those that know don’t:)

  48. SussexWatcher says:

    What did Longhurst do that’s so awful?

  49. just asking? says:

    She fired the author of this post.

  50. JConnor says:

    So cold… true:)

  51. Actually, she didn’t. She DID, however, instruct me to sign a letter that, had I signed it, would have prevented me from getting my unemployment benefits. She had to be corrected by the Chief Clerk. His exact words, while on the phone with the Department of Labor, were “Don’t sign that letter!!”

    She also did not inform me of my right to collect my pension, as was her responsibility. I didn’t even find out until six months later that I was eligible to collect my pension. Caused some serious financial hardship for my family.

    Oh, and after my 24 years of working for the General Assembly, Longhurst told me I had 20 minutes to leave my office, and started ripping my posters off the walls. No explanation whatsoever for why this was happening. The General Assembly, of course, exempts itself from merit system requirements. Somebody in caucus gets a bug up their butt, and you can be gone just like that. To this day, I have never been told what happened.

    I DO know that Longhurst was gleeful at exercising her new-found power. I will be equally gleeful when she gets her much-deserved comeuppance. And it will come.

    Just to set the record straight.

  52. SussexDem40 says:

    I have heard that the vote for Speaker was 15-12 Schwartzkopf. I don’t think Dennis E. Williams was ever with Keeley, although he may have been with Bryon Short, I don’t know. I don’t know if Dennis E. broke his word or not, but if he did I think that is the cardinal sin among legislators. Somehow, somewhere they’ll be a pay

  53. Yeah, and it’s not just confined to legislators. Lobbyists have suffered the same fate. In fact, at least one administration was not held in high regard b/c legislators came to believe that the word of that administration could not be trusted. They had a much tougher time in getting stuff enacted, especially in the Senate.