Exhibit showcases governors’ elections

Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — Quick — how many governors has Delaware had?

Which governor was the first elected to multiple terms?

Who was the last governor to lose a re-election bid?

The answers (73, Douglass Buck and Sherman Tribbitt) can be found at the Delaware Public Archives’ new exhibit on gubernatorial elections in the First State.

On Monday with the state’s three most recent governors in attendance dozens of people cheered the archives and explored its new exhibit.

Included in the showcase are more than 200 political buttons, pictures of past governors and a voting booth displaying candidates from more than a century ago.

The approximately 250 buttons and other bits of memorabilia sitting in a case urge Delawareans to vote for various candidates over the years, dating back to 1908. One piece calls for voters to back the Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in the 1992 election, an election won by the two Democrats.

Others, such as a button that hopes to persuade people to “delete du Pont” (a reference to former Republican Gov. Pete du Pont) are from the losing side.

As a piece of history the buttons offer a glimpse at how campaigning has changed over time.

Most of the items are on loan from private collections.

For some viewers, state Archivist Stephen Marz said as former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner perused the collection, the exhibit “brings back memories that are precious to them.”

All six living former governors, as were the three lieutenant governors who did not serve as governor, were invited to the official unveiling. Mike Castle, governor from 1985 to 1992, arrived late due to an accident on Del. Route 1, which also caused former lieutenant governor S.B. Woo to miss Monday’s ceremony.

The exhibit was developed for the 2016 election, which will see the state elect a new chief executive. The display will run through at least March.
Several former governors walked through the exhibit with visible interest, reminiscing about years past.

In a ceremony that included a proclamation in honor of the archives, Gov. Jack Markell and former governors Minner and Tom Carper all spoke.
Together, their tenure spans nearly a quarter century, dating back to 1992.

Each one was successful in re-election bids, making them part of a streak of five consecutive two-term governors.

All three praised the archives, with Sen. Carper relaying a brief history of the building.

“‘If people know the truth, they will not make a mistake,’” Sen. Carper said, quoting Thomas Jefferson. “Part of the mission of the archives, and a mission really for all of us as citizens, is to make sure people of this state and the country know the truth.”

Making a rare public appearance, Ms. Minner shared a story of viewing a family tree and cracked a few jokes for the audience.

“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, it’s so boring. This one begat that one and that one begat that one,’” she said. “It doesn’t do that in real history. It only does that in the Bible. There are things though, about your family, that you might be shocked to find out are in the archives.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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