Delaware legislators, lobbyists link arms on the runway

By Margie Fishman — The News Journal

Walking hand in hand, Delaware legislators and lobbyists shimmied, stumbled and waddled down a runway at the Chase Center on the Riverfront Wednesday night to raise money for college scholarships.

Wearing hooded real mink coats reminiscent of Cookie Lyon on “Empire,” Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences (and decorum) on the catwalk for the annual event organized by Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, a Wilmington Democrat.

“We’re bipartisan. We wouldn’t even have a shirt on our back if it wasn’t for the Democrats,” joked David Wilson, a Bridgeville Republican.

Or, in the case of Wilson, an ill-fitting tangerine T-shirt with patterned Bermuda shorts and a fedora.

Besides offending PETA and spring fashion analysts, the fur segment has provoked concerns from “conscientious objectors” in years past, according to Rep. Paul Baumbach, a Newark Democrat. This year, he noted, the legislature is considering a controversial measure to allow hunting and trapping of the gray fox, the official state wildlife animal.

“So, it’s an interesting time to play it off with a nice runway presentation of the furs,” he joked.

Of the dozen politicians, some were more comfortable “working it” than others.

Wilmington City Councilwoman Maria Cabrera owned the stage as she swung her hips and vogued to the beats. Rep. Ruth Briggs King, a Georgetown Republican, kicked up her coral heels and, later, whipped out booty-shaking nightclub moves in a black lace dress.

Legend has it that former Rep. Donald Blakey, a Camden Republican, put on quite the spectacle, bringing his alligator boots and feather boa as props.

The ultimate ham this year was Rep. Ed Osienski, a Newark Democrat, who seductively ripped off his sunglasses and blazer as hooting aides snapped photos.

After all, the booze was flowing, the DJ was blasting Snap!’s “The Power, the announcer mistook a Republican for a Democrat, and part of the moveable staging had collapsed.

Others, like Rep. Kim Williams (D-Wilmington) and Rep. Harvey Kenton (R-Milford) waved robotically or flashed peace signs and thumbs-up like they were former Pres. Richard Nixon on the campaign trail.

Wearing a black Louis Vuitton suit, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, a Rehoboth Democrat, seemed dazed before a swarm of hired photographers.

“I have no idea what to do,” he said.

Later, swathed in an unfortunate pants ensemble made entirely of peach linen, he confessed: “I can’t hold my breath that long.”

The award for I-look-like-a-child-whose-mother-is-making-me-do-this went to Rep. Sean Lynn, a Dover Democrat, whose sole moment of whimsy came when he flipped up the collar on his fur. The rest of the evening, Lynn appeared somber as he was forced to parade around in a white T-shirt and blazer straight out of “Miami Vice.”

Over 22 years, the scholarship program has raised more than $30,000, according to Bolden, and has attracted an enviable list of corporate sponsors like Bank of America, Delmarva Power, Verizon and Comcast..

With fluctuating event attendance, Bolden decided to add the celebrity fashion component about six years ago to drum up interest. An estimated 150 tickets were sold to Wednesday’s event, which featured clothing from local boutiques such as Morgan’s of Delaware and Lady’s Image.

While serving on the Wilmington City Council, Bolden established the Burton/Phelan Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor the late civil rights advocate and former Wilmington councilman William “Dutch” Burton and Hattie Phelan, the first African American woman to serve on Wilmington City Council for two terms.

This year, the program will distribute two $1,000 scholarships to college students living in the third district, which Bolden represents. Recipients are required to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and agree to 20 hours of community service if they wish to have the funding renewed for two more years.

The grand finale Wednesday came during the formalwear portion, when lobbyists for Verizon, Ruggerio, Wilson & Associates and The Byrd Group were paired off with legislators for their final walks.

As Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” took them home, it was one big happy family.

Contact Margie Fishman at 302-324-2882 or