The 62 Project: #’s 22 & 40

Filed in Delaware by on January 9, 2014

#22: Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-14th SD)

The District: The 14th SD extends from the C & D Canal south all the way to Leipsic.  The portion of the district from Middletown to Smyrna runs from the Delaware River west all the way to the state line. Here’s the map(PDF file).   The district has a fairly strong D registration plurality:  14455 D; 8538 R; and 7712 I.  The district tends to vote a tad more conservatively than the registration might suggest. Obama carried the district, but by less than the strong plurality.

Bruce Ennis has been a legislator for a long time. First elected in 1982, he served in the House until 2007. He won a Special Election to replace Jim Vaughn that year, and has served in the Senate since. In 2012, R’s thought they had a strong challenger in ‘farmer and businessman’ Scott Unruh, but Ennis handily defeated him, 12,031 to 7652.  Here is a list of those who contributed to Unruh’s campaign.    You’ll note the anti-choice folks and, of course, the manufactured home builders.

Ennis took the time-honored (or dishonored) route to the General Assembly. Retired state trooper straight to Leg Hall. His temperament, though, is different than others who have made the same trek. He’s not aggressive, he’s very friendly, does his homework, and maintains close ties to his constituents. He is in his Dover office almost every day, and he’s always meeting with constituents.  Not those with the most money, I might point out.  You might not think he’s all that smart when you first meet him, but he uses that to his advantage. He’s a lot smarter, and more politically canny, than he seems.

In many ways, SS1 to SB 33 serves as his signature legislative act. Providing protections for residents of manufactured home communities was simply the right thing to do. He had worked on the issue for years, had previously gotten similar legislation through at least one chamber, but was thwarted by some of the greediest interests in the state. He was greatly assisted by an increasingly-mobilized grassroots this year, and was finally able to achieve success.

His sense of fairness is not limited to this one bill, however. He has consistently supported working families, including supporting the minimum wage increase, opposing the proposed giveaway of the Port of Wilmington, and supporting giving state employees a voice on the State Employee Benefit Committee.

He also sponsors bills to benefit constituents who he feels have been wronged. Here’s a typical example.    Oh, and while this one has no legislative effect, it puts him well ahead of our congressional cult members.

And that’s only this session, but it illustrates his career in a microcosm. He’s also served for years on the Joint Finance Committee, and enjoys respect from his colleagues. I will admit that he’s also one of the best-liked legislators as far as staff is concerned, and I certainly am in that company.

Granted, he’s not gonna be on the cutting edge of progressivism when it comes to social issues. But you’ll never hear him denigrate or make fun of someone who takes issue with his votes. And he’s not gonna turn the clock back on progress, hence support for his opponent from the anti-choice crowd.

When it comes to economic justice and trying to ensure a level-playing field for those without powerful dollars behind them, Bruce Ennis is a stalwart. I don’t think you’re gonna do much better in the 14th SD than what Ennis offers.

#40. Rep. Stephanie Bolden (2nd RD)

The District: The 2nd RD is comprised of a large swath of Wilmington’s eastside,  along with Browntown, and Alban Park.  Its shape lends itself to nicknames, and you can check it out here (PDF file).   I’m leaning towards ‘The Pelican’ but you might see the features of a horse head in there as well. Or something completely different.  This district was almost completely ‘represented’ by the Plant family (Al O. and Hazel) from 1975 to 2010, with a brief two-year interlude in the ’90’s when Rourke Moore defeated Al and held the seat for one term. Hazel replaced Al following his death, and held the seat for five terms. The district remains one of the poorest in the state, houses both a prison and a landfill, and is overwhelmingly Democratic. How overwhelming? How about 10,265 D; 1260 R; and 2367 I. In other words, over 73% of the registered voters are D’s.

To call Stephanie Bolden a disappointment would be to assume that I expected her to be a superior legislator. I didn’t. Many, perhaps most, legislators, have elements of narcissism as part of their personalities. But narcissism defines Stephanie Bolden. Always elegantly coiffed and coutured to the point of parody, and constantly harping on her most important constituent, herself.  Here is the bio she has chosen to put online:

In 2010, Stephanie T. Bolden, a long standing Wilmington resident, was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives to represent the District 2.

 As the longest serving African American woman to hold elected office in Delaware (her itals, not mine), Representative Bolden has an impressive and distinguished record of public service. Stephanie T. Bolden served five terms on the Wilmington City Council, which led to her election, as the first female President Pro-Tempore for the council. Under her leadership, the 2nd district has improved and grown in key areas including housing, business development, civic leadership, education, and scholarship. She has also played an integral role in helping to improve the quality of life for seniors implementing the Senior Thanksgiving Day initiative. Through partnerships with local businesses, she helped provide holiday meals for hundreds of seniors across the state.

Representative Bolden completed her post-secondary education at Delaware State University and graduate work at Boston College, where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Education. Her strong belief in education lead her to devote more than thirty years as an educator in both public schools and institutions of higher education Additionally, Representative Bolden founded the Burton-Phelan Memorial Scholarship program for matriculating students (presumably as opposed to non-matriculating students).

Currently, in its 17th year, this scholarship fund has helped numerous college students with essential tuition and financial assistance (OK, readers, all I could find online were some pics from Tom Kovach and Victoria Kent. What, exactly is the Burton-Phelan Scholarship Program? There’s no info on the program or how to apply, but apparently they do a fashion show).

On her watch, while much has been accomplished, much remains. To that end, Representative Bolden brings tremendous energy and passion to serving the community on a larger scale. In her role as District 2 State Representative, she remains committed to championing the growth and improvement of public safety, public health, education, and youth development.

Additional associations include: Lector, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Board of Communities in School, Delaware Black Caucus, Organization of 100 Black Women, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Knights of St. Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary.

As always, her abiding faith and family are the keys to her strength and success.

I’m sorry, that all reads like self-admiring bullshit to me. (Any misspellings, etc, are all hers, BTW. Wonder what she taught her students during those thirty years…).

Here is a representative who voted against limits on payday loans that were ripping off her constituents.  Here is a representative who by her vote, enabled Pete Schwartzkopf to become Speaker and deny her constituents even a meager minimum wage increase, while preventing city representation at the most powerful legislative level.  While I know that sponsorship doesn’t mean a lot, she didn’t even sponsor the bill opposing the Port of Wilmington clusterbleep. Yes she voted for it, but so did every other House member.

She has successfully sponsored one, and only one, bill of note. Here it is.    And you’ll notice that this bill doesn’t really go past the bureaucratic paper-shuffling phase. That’s what she has done. Nothing more.

That’s it. She isn’t terrible, but she appears disinterested in, you know, legislating. One would hope that a district like hers would be served by someone more interested in their constituents’ problems than her own resume.

She generally votes the ‘right’ way, but then so would anybody who represents this overwhelmingly Democratic and under-served district.

I’d normally say that the district deserves better. But the voters sent the Plants back to Dover for something like 33 years. So maybe the 2nd RD deserves Stephanie Bolden.

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  1. anon says:

    Always elegantly coiffed and coutured to the point of parody…

    Really? This is a shot you’ve decided to take against Bolden? How petty. So, so petty. When you write about Kowalko will you take a petty shot like that at his hair? When you ranked Trey Paradee #38 and called him a “disappointment,” you never mentioned his perfectly gelled, unmoving Reagan hair or his expensive taste in clothing. I’m sensing some sexism, you’ll deny it, but it’s there.

    (Any misspellings, etc, are all hers, BTW. Wonder what she taught her students during those thirty years…).

    First, I only noticed a missing period. Alert the media. And wouldn’t Bolden’s bio that you posted, get put online by House staff and don’t they have some sort of responsibility to proofread what they’re putting online for the Rep that they rep?

    Here is a representative who by her vote, enabled Pete Schwartzkopf to become Speaker and deny her constituents even a meager minimum wage increase,

    OK, I need an explanation of this because the minimum wage bill has never made it out of the House Economic Development/Banking etc. committee for a full House vote and Bolden isn’t on that committee. Are you saying that she voted for Schwartzkopf to be Speaker specifically because he is against a minimum wage increase? That seems like a stretch.

  2. Jason330 says:

    I knocked on doors in my neighborhood with Ennis when he was running against a well liked school board member whose only fault was her party affiliation.

    I found him to be a very surprising guy. Not the dixie-crat I imagined, having come up in the shadow of the execrable Jim Vaughn. El Som points out, he is a very committed public servant.

  3. cassandra_m says:

    I’m co-signing with anon on this. I don’t quite get the shot on her looks or style. She’s always well turned out — unlike some of her male colleagues. Will you be assessing how they dress or get their hair done too? How much of this assessment is tied to her perfect hair and her couture? Which isn’t particularly out of line for OG African-American church ladies.

    Full disclosure — I was Stephanie’s Treasurer for her first campaign for the 2nd District seat. I haven’t been Treasurer since her first term started.

    I don’t object to the ranking, but do object to including in her ranking style points that Ennis (or others) was not subject to.

    I wish she was a more aggressive legislator, and I still am puzzled by why she did not vote for Helene Keeley (I can’t see any advantage she may have gotten by voting for Schwartzkopf). But there is one thing she is genuinely great at and that is constituent service. She is responsive to her constituents (the ones who aren’t calling to get out of tickets and so on) and has personally supervised some situations involving some of her elderly constituents that would make your blood run cold. She is even still working on city issues for constituents since her successor isn’t especially good at it.

    Constituent service is certainly not the only thing that a legislator should be graded on — I’m still a policy wonk here — but this piece would be more objective and fair if it had discussed *that* instead of how she looks.

  4. ACA says:

    Ennis is an okay Legislator, he does do quite a bit for those who are not represented enough but we cannot totally just forget how he votes on social issues. He voted “no” on HB 75 and SB 97 two key pieces of social legislation in DE.

  5. AQC says:

    I had a very brief conversation with Stephanie Bolden in legislative hall one day regarding the needs and rights of the mentally ill. Her contribution to the discussion was “just keep them out of my district”. For this reason I have no respect for her as a legislator, educator or human. However, I have to agree the shot at her clothing was uncalled for.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    Ugh, AQC, that’s horrible.

  7. For those who think my focus on her clothing was excessive or petty, I hear you.

    But, I worked with her when Herman the Lesser ran for Senate, and I helped Sen. Marshall when she ran against him in a primary. Her slogan, BTW, was ‘In tune, in touch’. I didn’t develop a dislike for her mainly b/c she was so focused on herself, and not on the issues in the district. Didn’t see her as a threat. She only got about 25% or so in the primary. I saw the narcissism in full flower and, yes, I think it manifests itself in her dress, especially when contrasted with her lack of interest in, you know, the issues. You may consider it sexist, maybe it is and I just can’t see it. But remember I’ve called Tony DeLuca basically a petty thug in a three-piece suit. Maybe it’s my lack of fashion sense, I don’t know.

    BTW, AQC, during the Marshall campaign there was some attempt to get, I think, a park (a skate park, maybe?) opened up somewhere near Cleland Heights. Some of the locals didn’t like it. But what they liked less was Bolden’s take on this, and I’m paraphrasing: “It’s about time that the County got some of the crime for a change”. You can bet that we cut and pasted that quote and made sure the county districts saw what she’d said.

  8. cassandra_m says:

    But remember I’ve called Tony DeLuca basically a petty thug in a three-piece suit.

    And the point of this is that he’s a thug. You didn’t make any reference to either the perfection of his hair or of “couture” of his suit. You didn’t do this kind of commentary on any of the other writeups. And certainly you didn’t explain why her hair style or suits are somehow detrimental to the work she does or does not do.

    I don’t doubt that you don’t see it. It’s your own narcissism at play — when you think you’ve nailed a cute observation, you aren’t at all interested in how it might actually be playing out.

  9. You could be right. Didn’t think of it that way. Although I see how it’s playing out–not particularly well.

  10. puck says:

    So there’ll be no more tolerance for snark about Chip Flowers’s tailored suits or expensive shoes – right?

  11. cassandra m says:

    Way to miss the point, puck.

  12. Paul Calistro says:

    Five minutes prior the house vote on payday lending reform I was informed that Stephanie had changed her position . I rushed to the floor and asked what change her mind? She told me ” my hairdresser told me this was bad for my people.” When I tried to present an alternative view I was quickly dismissed with ” you don’t understand people from my side of town, they ( I guess I was they) are trying to take one more thing away from my people”
    I was hurt, disappointed and amazed .

  13. puck says:

    “” my hairdresser told me this was bad for my people.”


  14. cassandra m says:

    Paul, that’s seriously horrible. Unfortunately, grappling with the wider implications of legislative policy AND cavalierly dismissing policy discussion is the standard order of business for her. The shame of it is that she genuinely cares about the people she represents and the feedback she gets from her constituents is generally pretty good, so there’s no immediate incentives for change that I can see.

  15. Jason330 says:

    Just a thought…Why can’t the state set up a bank that is less usurious than the options provided to poor people by the invisible hand?

  16. Jason, See
    I believe that the Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union may offer what you seek.

  17. bamboozer says:

    Ennis is a big improvement over Jim Vaughn, ’tis true. But he’s also a social conservative and never met a mandatory sentence, increased penalty or packed jail he didn’t love. He is a nice guy, but he’s also part of the problem that has turned Delaware into a police state where imprisonment is the cure for what ails you. As such I’ll not vote for him, or any Republican as I have no wish to stab myself in the back.