The 2018 MVP (Most Valuable To The Progressive Cause) Award Winners

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on December 19, 2018

With one exception, this list comprises those who I considered the most valuable to the progressive cause in Delaware this year. The one exception is a legislator who put together one of the finest careers I can recall.  Let’s get started:

10. NNAMDI CHUKWUOHA: I had been screaming, screaming, for someone to challenge one of Delaware’s most-ethically challenged legislators. From, I must add, perhaps the most ethically-challenged political family in Delaware. Nnamdi stepped up and dispatched Charles Potter into involuntary retirement. Easily dispatched him. 60-40. People were just waiting to vote against Potter, all they needed was someone with a firmer grasp of ethics to step up to the plate. Sometimes you add by subtracting. Excising Charles Potter from any political position is the definition of ‘adding by subtracting’.

9. MELISSA MINOR-BROWN:  She became the benchmark for the whole reason behind my ‘Mo’ Better Democrats’ series.  She decided to challenge incumbent Mike Mulrooney in a D primary in RD 17.  While I’ve always liked Mike, his pro-NRA voting record was out of touch with the district. I think Mike was as well, which is why I think he subsequently decided to retire. (BTW, I’m convinced that the same fate would have befallen John Viola if only one Democrat had stepped up; Next time.) Minor-Brown handily won a three-way D primary.  Perhaps equally importantly, she’s already started to make a difference. She’s been involved in the response to the Croda gas leak, and has pushed for public transparency of what happened and what changes will be made. As a public health nurse, Minor-Brown is well-positioned to raise the issue of environmental racism and the health and safety impact that environmental issues have on poorer communities. I also feel totally confident that, should an assault weapons ban reach the House, and I think it will, she’ll be a yes as opposed to Mulrooney’s no. A new legislator with lots of promise.

8. MICHAEL HARRINGTON: Yep, the State Rethuglican Chair. Yes, he was dealt a bad hand.  But the few candidates who briefly emerged, and then withdrew, were not ready for anything close to prime time.  Does anyone remember, wait, I have to go back in time to dig up their names, be back soon…Tom Neuberger; the pro-marijuana friend of James Spadola, what was his name again?; Kenneth Brandt, the guy who was gonna challenge Carper except he was working for the Federal government and couldn’t; Joan Winters, who was the R candidate for auditor for about 48 hours, and talked more Villanova hoops than running during her brief candidacy; Lee ‘Go Murph Go’ Murphy, who only Harrington saw as viable.  And these were the ones who dropped out.  That statewide slate was a joke and, yes, it effectively killed the candidacy of Ken Simpler, the only statewide R with a chance to win. May Harrington reign forever.

7. ERIK RASER-SCHRAMM AND JESSE CHADDERDON:  I, uh, think you can see the contrast. They made sure that the Party didn’t interfere in the primaries. They marshalled resources where they were needed. They addressed crises before they were crises, like the Monique Johns lit-stealing incident.  They challenged the illegal dealings of Simpler and Lavelle.  They utilized polling to make sure that the most competitive races got the most love. Oh, and they recruited.  If Ken Simpler didn’t have an opponent, he wouldn’t have lost.  This is by far the best leadership team that the Delaware Democratic Party has ever put together.

6. REP. J. J. JOHNSON: When JJ announced his retirement, Speaker Pete praised him for being a gentleman, and cited that as the reason why he was so respected.  Well, yes and no. Rep. Johnson is a gentleman, perhaps the most well-adjusted legislator in Dover. Perhaps ever. Whatever ‘full of himself’ is, he’s the diametric opposite. Here’s what you need to know, though: He effectively utilized his personality to help enact a whole raft of criminal justice reform bills.  From ‘Ban the Box’ to restoration of voting rights for felons, he just kept his eyes on the prize and on the process.  Right up until the end of his last term, he was churning out bills effecting positive change on criminal justice. Some major, some incremental. A great person and a great legislator. He will be missed.

5. DAVID CARTER AND DEE DURHAM: I listed them alphabetically b/c they’re both such upgrades that it’s difficult to favor one over the other. David Carter defeated incumbent Bill Powers in a primary for New Castle County Council District 6, and Dee Durham defeated longtime Brandywine Hundred councilman Bob Weiner.  These are two of the strongest environmental advocates in the State of Delaware. Either one would have been a much better DNREC Secretary than anyone since Toby Clark.  County Council is now a pretty much respectable political body–excepting, of course, the County Council President.  And 2020’s right around the corner.

4. KERRI EVELYN HARRIS AND CHRIS JOHNSON: Two stalwart progressives running statewide races in the Democratic primaries.  These are two people who are easy to like, who ran for the right reasons, and who, at the very least, moved their opponents leftward in the primaries.  Oh, and two people who will make their mark moving forward, whether they run for office again or not.  Harris stepped up when it appeared that nobody was going to challenge Carper.  While it was somewhat amusing to hear Carper say that he supported a $15 minimum wage when he helped kill a $10.10 minimum wage in the Senate, he’s already cast votes that he might not have previously cast had he not been challenged from the left. That’s all because of Kerri Harris.  Chris Johnson ran a revolutionary campaign for AG. He challenged the basic tenets of how criminal justice has been meted out in Delaware. The eventual winner of the primary adopted many of his positions during the campaign, and continued to highlight them during the fall general election. It’s up to all of us to work to make sure that she follows through on those positions come January.  I think the General Assembly is ready for comprehensive bail reform, especially with the change in the makeup of the body.  That would be a good place to start. And Chris Johnson would deserve a lot of credit for getting us to this point.

3. TIZZY LOCKMAN: It’s not often that I get blown away by a first-time candidate. But Tizzy Lockman appears to have arrived fully-formed as an ideal legislator. Not only was her campaign masterful, but it was so damned inclusive.  It’s hard to run without making enemies, but she accomplished it.  Her seriousness will be most welcomed in Dover. Incisive intelligence, a great grasp on the issues, and committed to those who don’t have an in with, say, Buccini/Pollin.  Which she has publicly articulated on the ‘panhandling’ issue. I don’t know where her political career will take her. But I know someone with unlimited potential when I see them.  I can’t wait to see what she does in Dover. And beyond.

2. DREW SERRES AND NETWORK DELAWARE: OK, I’ve bought the hype on Drew.  He is the best campaign organizer and candidate trainer around. Maybe the best trainer of candidates that I’ve seen. This year, we saw the results in several of the key legislative races.  Network Delaware has emerged not just as a grassroots campaign group, but also as a vehicle to promote progressive policy.  The word ‘inclusiveness’ applies to them as well. To put it mildly, if you want to get involved, you can get involved.  Delaware has never seen an extensive grassroots operation quite like this. The closest analogy was the original incarnation of Progressive Democrats For Delaware, which started out as a grassroots group organized by those who supported Howard Dean’s candidacy, but has subsequently passed through several other permutations.  Which illustrates the key challenge for Network Delaware, Delaware United, and other grassroots groups:  Can they continue to build while still proving flexible enough to adapt? And can they avoid the political infighting that killed the original vision of PDD? Those are questions for another day.  For now, Drew Serres and Network Delaware provide the best grassroots hope for progressive politics in Delaware.

1. LAURA STURGEON:  As you well know, I love to quote from my favorite political quote machine–me.  Let’s take this walk down Memory Lane.  It all came true. Laura Sturgeon knocked on all those doors that Drew Serres told her she’d have to knock on. She put together a volunteer army.  She was tough as nails when she had to be, and she was diplomatic when she had to be. And tireless.  As a result, one of the right-wing Rethug true believers is gone from the Senate, replaced by someone light years more progressive, especially on public education; the Senate Democratic Caucus placed Bryan Townsend in leadership as an olive branch to what will be a more progressive body; Democratic control of the Senate is now assured moving forward, and the increased margin makes it more likely that progressive legislation will pass; and, yes, I think that Laura’s campaign also helped both Dee Durham and Krista Griffith to get elected. Laura Sturgeon won the single most important legislative race of 2018.  She and Dee Durham dealt political death blows to the lingering remnants of the Republican Party north of Wilmington. For those reasons, Laura Sturgeon is my MVP of 2018.

Almost time to clear the decks for 2019…


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  1. Jason330 says:

    Can’t argue with any of these. It was a great year for progressives and I feel like the flywheel is turning.

  2. RE Vanella says:

    Good list.

    Network Delaware Election Planning for the next cycle starts 3 January.

    Little by little the oligarchs & corporate sharks & piss pot boys (Carney) will be run out of government at all levels. Watch.

  3. BTW, Kerri Harris and J. J. Johnson, fighting on behalf of the voiceless:

    The behavior of the governor and his appointees on this issue is disgraceful. You DID notice that the Commissioner wasn’t available, didn’t you? Let me get this straight–we’re relocating prisoners and causing tremendous grief for families for…$8 a day?

    • jason330 says:

      thanks for the link:

      The two representatives of the Department of Correction admitted they were not the decision-makers and could not adequately respond to every question but would try to provide what answers they could and get back to attendees on other questions.

      Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps was not available, according to Mr. Wesley.

      “What I’m hearing over and over again is there’s not enough knowing and we need to know,” Kerri Evelyn Harris said.

  4. Kelly says:

    I agree with everything you said. If you think that Charles Potter was Ethically Challenge you haven’t see his wife Velda Jones Potter. I hope in the next election in 2020 she receives the same fate that her husband got. They both need to be out of politics forever. They only care about their own pocketbook. Charles is nothing but an Insurance Salesman now. I hope that Sam Guy is put out of office also. He is CRAZY