Today’s installment asks the musical question: “Do I grade on a curve when it comes to Republicans?”
Why, yes, yes I do. Except when I don’t.
Another question: Does public comment influence me. Yes, but only to a certain extent.
Puzzled? I’ll make everything as clear as taupe (think stockings, as I often do). Starting now.
29. MIKE RAMONE (R-21st RD)
The District: According to Ramone’s website, “…the 21st Representative District is located in northwest New Castle County and includes Pike Creek Valley, Carousel Farms Park and the White Clay State Park”. A suburban greater Newark district (click ‘District Map’ here). The district is, or should be, a swing-D district, with 7411 D’s; 5213 R’s; and 4790 I’s. Those figures are misleading, though, as there was a pretty massive switch from R’s to D’s to vote in the 2008 Markell-Carney Democratic primary for governor. Almost all of them for Markell. So, there are plenty of DINOs in the district, or would be, if the national R’s hadn’t slipped off the rails. Ramone is in his third term, having succeeded native Oklahoman (and she sounded like it) Pam Maier. The district basically had close to a 50-50 registration before the primary when Ramone first ran.
Ramone has run a string of small businesses, some successfully, some not so much. (BTW, click this link for some trenchant and cogent analysis from 2009. This one, too.) Yes, those were back in the days when I still wrote in the third person.
Until this year, most legislators viewed Ramone as an unprepared relative lightweight. This article from Nemski may give you some idea why. For all I know he may still be. But I doubt that anyone moved up in the rankings (of course, there weren’t any prior rankings, but had there been…) as far as Ramone. Of course, he had pretty far to go. But, for some reason, Mike Ramone voted with the progressives far more, I mean far more, than any other R member of the House. Not to mention several D’s This was a significant and, to my mind, unexpected change. Check the votes. Gay marriage? Check. Mandatory reporting of lost/stolen guns? Check. Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally-ill? Check. Mandatory background checks on gun purchasers? Check. Restored voting rights for felons? Check. He even (Pandora Alert!) went not voting on HB 165.
Several of us here at Delaware Liberal were disappointed when Sen. Karen Peterson purportedly discouraged a Democratic challenger to Ramone. Including me. As usual, it looks like Karen knew what she was doing. Ramone’s evolution from just a caucus member to a valuable cog in the progressive coalition was one of the most shocking and positive developments of the year. There is no one in the R caucus like him, or even close. Memo to Mike: You have lots of friends on the other side of the aisle. You won’t even have to move your own desk, someone will do it for you. Just don’t sign anything before you read it.
33. ANDRIA BENNETT (D-32nd RD)
Before we get into the analysis, yes, I was influenced by both readers and legislators and moved her up the list from my initial ranking. When people like John Kowalko and Bryan Townsend vouch for you, I pay attention.
The District: Perhaps no district was made safer through redistricting than this one. It went from a swing-D district (that had elected the odious insurance industry lapdog Donna Stone for years) to as solid a D district as you’ll find in Kent County. 6280 D; 3117 R; 3212 I. And we’re not talking DINO’s either. The bulk of the district is within the Dover city limits, and reflect traditional D core constituencies. Here’s the map (PDF). And let’s face it. Not even the pre-2012 constituency moved to oust Brad Bennett, who had experienced his first DUI misadventure. This, for all intents and purposes, is a safe D seat going forward.
Andria Bennett, who was serving as a legislative aide for the State Senate, and who is the daughter of undistinguished Rep. John Viola, ran for her husband’s seat following his decision not to run for reelection after his second, and probably more notorious, DUI arrest. Here’s how I pegged it back then right after the arrest. He eventually took to the House floor and tearfully apologized for the disrepute he had brought on the institution. Andria Bennett won a primary, against former Dover City Council budget hawk Bill McGlumphy, and defeated an ancient R Justice of the Peace, Ellis Parrott, in the general. Parrott physically resembled proud know-nothing Sen. Jim Vaughn to a disconcerting degree. Might’ve been enough for me to vote for Bennett. I know, I know, I’m shallow.
Her voting record has been a mixed bag in her first year. She supported gay marriage. She opposed SB 16, which would have required the reporting of lost and stolen firearms. She supported legislation designed to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally-disturbed people. She opposed the mandatory criminal background check legislation. Most importantly, at least to me, she not only voted to bury the minimum wage increase in the House Business Lapdog Committee (for newbies, its proper title is the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce Committee; House Business Lapdog Committee is more accurate, trust me), she cited Chamber of Commerce talking points as her reason for doing so. Because, you know, when it comes to minimum wage, nobody is more even-handed and impartial than the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Maybe Bennett should read something like this, at least for perspective.
She did, however, sponsor two really good bills and, according to reports, was an effective advocate for both. HB 163 helps to ensure that comprehensive transitional services are provided for youth aging out of foster care, and HB 64 allows parents to ‘freeze’ their minor children’s credit cards to protect them from identity theft. That’s the kind of good legislating that I respect, and it’s the only reason why she’s ranked this highly.
To move up further, she needs to read more than just Chamber talking points when making up her mind on minimum wage, and she needs to show more independence from the NRA. Actually, for her to move up on this list, she has to reverse her position on the minimum wage. She’s got a safe district, let’s see what she really stands for. Is she a progressive, or not? And, does she stand for anything other than her own reelection? There is evidence on both sides, which makes this ranking about right to me for now. To be continued.