The 62 Project: #’s 23 & 39

Filed in Delaware by on December 11, 2013

#23: Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-10th SD)

The District: The 10th SD runs mainly north to south from the southernmost reaches of Newark through Glasgow, across the C & D Canal, down to Odessa and Middletown.  Here’s the map (PDF file). Prior to the 2002 redistricting, this was a solid Newark-centered district, and it sent moderate R’s  Jim Neal and Steve Amick to Dover to represent them in the Senate. The boundaries shifted southward beginning in 2002, and it now has little of Newark left. The high-growth areas of Glasgow and Middletown dominate the district’s population in 2013. The district has a strong D registration edge, 14578 D; 9403 R; and 8263 I.  Unless I misread something, Barack Obama won every single ED in the 10th Senatorial in 2012. So, despite a loud smattering of intolerant so-called Christians, this district largely supports D’s.

Bethany Hall-Long first ran for office in 2000, and lost an extremely close House race to Dick Cathcart, 6040-5885. Cathcart wanted nothing to do with a rematch, and so, in 2002, Cathcart and Hall-Long were in different districts, thanks to redistricting. Hall-Long dispatched William Hutchison in 2002,  3591-2322, and held her 8th District House seat comfortably until 2008, when she sought the seat held by retiring Sen. Steve Amick. The resulting contest was no contest, as Hall-Long easily defeated James Weldin by close to a 2-1 margin, 13965-7274. The R’s didn’t even bother to field a challenger in 2012. Hall-Long is electorally-bulletproof in this district, at least from R’s.

Hall-Long was born and raised in Sussex County. She is a descendant of a previous Delaware Governor. She is a striver and an achiever. Academic honors, professional honors, you name it. From her bio:

She graduated top of her class in 1981 at I.R. and was an active leader (class officer, drum majorette, captain of cheerleading) and competitive sports player (All-Conference hockey, track co-captain). She was selected for Boys and Girls State and was in the first class of the Governor’s School for Excellence. She was the top graduate in all her collegiate programs. Bethany traveled the east coast with her husband in the U.S. Navy. In each community, Bethany was honored with various awards for her community leadership and volunteerism.

…Bethany became very active in grassroots politics and community activism. She worked as a nurse manager and home care nurse in Northern Virginia while completing her PhD at an early age. She served as a U.S. Senate and USDHHS fellow, receiving numerous awards for her community work and public policy activities on Capitol Hill.

She was the first nursing faculty at U.D. to receive the University-wide excellence in teaching award and is currently an Associate Professor & Interim Director of the School of Nursing. Bethany’s research and community service record with at risk groups such as pregnant teens, diabetics, homeless and the mentally ill, makes her a nationally recognized health scientist.

As her biography suggests, Bethany Hall-Long is, to put it mildly, peripatetic. Constantly on the move, often with a cellphone plastered to each ear.  There is no doubting her intellect or her drive. If she decided to run for higher office, she’d certainly bring a high energy level to the task.

She found herself in the spotlight this session as she was one of the identified ‘undecided’ votes on gay marriage. At first, she reportedly told confidants that her father would disown her if she voted for the bill. However, the right-wing evangelicals in her district spewed their hatred, and Hall-Long had had enough. She made clear that such intolerance was unacceptable and, along with Sen. Cathy Cloutier, her yes vote made the difference in passing HB 75 in the Senate. She also supported transgender equality later in the session.

She voted against putting an end to the death penalty, but voted for the minimum wage increase.

Her bill sponsorship is largely focused on health-related bills, which makes sense as she chairs the Senate Health & Social Services Committee. However, her knowledge of the intricacies of these issues enables her to be more than just a sponsor pushing through administrative initiatives. She is often involved in working groups developing consensus best-practices proposals.

While I generally give Hall-Long high marks, she too often is, at best, a follower rather than a leader when it comes to equal rights and, especially, economic justice. Since she is a born leader and not a born follower, more leadership in these areas would make her more valuable to Delawareans. She showed some real growth this year, here’s hoping that she continues to evolve.

#39. Rep. John Viola (D-26th RD)

The District: The 26th RD is what used to be a blue-collar working district. It would still be if the jobs were still here.The northwest corner of the district is I-95 at State Rt. 273, the southwest corner at I-95 and State Rt. 896. The entire district runs east of that I-95 boundary.  Here’s the map(PDF).   This is a  D-majority district, 8547 D; 3005 R; and 3696 I. The entire 26th RD is part of the 11th Senatorial District, currently Bryan Townsend, formerly Tony DeLuca. More on that in just a couple of grafs. Barack Obama got more than 2/3 of the votes in the 26th in 2012, 6728-2361.  We’re talking a serious D district here.

John Viola was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, defeating longtime incumbent and JFC co-chair Rich Davis, 1897-1802.  Davis, a classy guy, said that Viola won because ‘he outworked me’. No recriminations, just a tip of the cap on his way out of Dover. Viola has not had serious opposition since, with the R’s polling no more than 20.1% in those odd instances when they bothered to muster a challenge at all.

The best that you can say about John Viola is that he ‘does no harm’. Some people are confirmed bachelors, Viola is a confirmed back-bencher. Nothing especially wrong with that. He’s generally a reliable vote for Democratic priorities. He supported gay marriage, transgender equality, payday loans, criminal background checks for gun purchases, and most other positive initiatives.

My main issue with Viola is that he is a legislator who benefits from Delaware Way shenanigans. Specifically, tell me where you’ve heard this before:   (Fill in the blank) is a Labor Law Enforcement Officer for the State of Delaware. If you fill in the blank with John Viola’s name, you’re correct. Viola’s boss? Tony DeLuca, former Senator from the 11th SD and former President Pro-Tempore. That’s right, Viola worked for his state senator in a job created especially for him. Maybe I’m not being fair in lumping DeLuca and Viola together… (although, come to think of it, the Labor Law Enforcement Office was created by Ruth Ann Minner and Mark Brainard precisely so that DeLuca could get a cushy second job with the state)…uh, never mind, I am being fair.

Viola has his hands in gambling issues, and is a member of the House Gaming & Parimutuel Committee.  This bill from the 145th General Assembly particularly intrigued me:

This act creates a new class of gaming institution in Delaware through exclusive authorization of a limited lottery license. A limited lottery license can only be granted to a private club with no more than 5,000 members with a minimum membership fee of $10,000. A limited lottery license expressly prohibits the licensee from operating video lottery machines, restricting gaming activity to table games and sports lottery machines operated exclusively for the enjoyment of members and their guests.

This act benefits the State of Delaware through a one-time $1,000,000 license fee payable immediately upon issuance of the limited lottery license; an estimated $2,000,000 per year in direct gaming tax revenue; millions more in corporate taxes generated by non-gaming operations within the private club receiving the license; at least 150 permanent new jobs, plus hundreds more in construction and start-up efforts, and the resulting employment and city wage taxes; exposure to a unique class of the most elite corporate and financial leaders, international travelers, and high-dollar tourists drawn to the only private gaming club in the United States.

Not sure what fish Viola had on the hook here, but it sure smelled fishy. We’re talking a Hockessin fishy smell.

Other than this bill, I could find nothing of significance in terms of successful initiatives. Nothing ventured, nothing passed.

I’ve also written that Viola is well-known for being the last legislator there and the first legislator out the door at the end of session. In fairness, however, perhaps Viola arrived late and left early in order to do all the work that DeLuca didn’t do in Labor Law Enforcement. Now that Tiny Tony presumably has more time to do his job, perhaps Viola will devote more time to legislating.

Bottom line on Viola: A back-bencher who does no harm and does…next to nothing. I suppose you could do worse at #39. Getting two state salaries for being connected doesn’t sit well with me, though.

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  1. Bob Biddle says:

    Last time I looked, Viola was not a backbencher but is on the Front Bench as Majority Whip.

  2. It ain’t where you sit, it’s what you do. My first session in the House, the Majority Whip was a guy named Howard Clendaniel. He had the title of majority whip, but he was every bit a backbencher. He was majority whip b/c upstaters had both of the real leadership positions. It was a meaningless crumb tossed to the downstate members of the caucus. There were more downstaters in the D caucus back then, and they were largely as undistinguished as the current group of R House downstaters.

    The whip’s functions are minimal. Viola’s position is a crumb tossed to organized labor b/c Schwartzkopf won the speakership in a squeakership of a race. Doesn’t matter where his desk is, he defines the term backbencher.

  3. Jason330 says:

    The fact that GRPC is located in the 10th doesn’t really mean much to the political make up. It draws from all over NCC. If nothing else BHL can count. I heard that when she first ran for State Rep she ran with a list in her pocket of people who said “Yes, I will vote for you.” to her in face to face conversations. Adding names to that list was an all consuming passion. It certainly paid off.

    I’m glad she is edging up on the list and hope our solidly blue state status continues to push her in that direction.

  4. Jason330 says:

    Viola seems like the kind of constituent services guy who knows the names of all the district’s HOA Presidents as well as their grand-children’s names.

  5. Tim says:

    BHL is one of the most active and responsive leaders in the state. Hopefully she’ll run statewide soon!!

  6. Looking for consistency says:

    Rep. Viola answered yes in the 2012 Common Cause candidates’ survey to the question:
    “Do you support reforming the way Delaware does legislative redistricting so that districts are drawn by an independent, balanced commission appointed by the state legislature? Elected officials would not be allowed to serve on this commission.”

    However, he has opposed Senate Bill 48 moving forward…

  7. Greg says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that BHL could run and win in a statewide election. There aren’t many legislators you can currently say that about. There isn’t a harder worker in the state than her. The only question is, will she? Any thoughts?

  8. jason330 says:

    I think we can all agree that she is a hard worker, but what is she working on other than her career? I’m seriously asking. What would she run on? Right now she is the Tracy Flick of Delaware politics. All elbow grease and drive in the service of what?

    Who knows?

  9. Tim says:

    She should run for Lt. Gov. when Denn leaves office.

  10. Jason330 has asked the question that should be asked if/when BHL runs for higher office.

    I don’t have an answer.

  11. SussexWatcher says:

    What is GRPC?

  12. Jason330 says:

    Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church

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