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Alum favored to win Delaware governor race

Even when Jack Markell '82 was at Brown, his friends thought he would go into politics.

"It was not if, but what year, is Jack going to become president," said Pamela Petro '82, a classmate and friend of Markell.

After a decade in politics, Markell is now likely to become the next governor of Delaware. Markell won the Democratic primary for governor on Sept. 9 with record-setting voter turnout, defeating Lt. Gov. John Carney by 1,700 votes. He will face former Superior Court Judge Bill Lee, a Republican, in the Nov. 4 general election.

"Carney did not even have a losing speech prepared, so this is really a stunning victory on Markell's part," said Gretchen Bauer '82, professor and chair of the University of Delaware Department of Political Science and International Relations.

The primary was likely a more challenging election for Markell than the upcoming general election will be in a state that traditionally "leans blue," she added.

"The assumption is that now he is going to win," she said.

Markell, who has had three consecutive winning campaigns for state treasurer, won the Democratic primary without the endorsement of the party. Both the current governor, Democrat Ruth Ann Minner, and the state Democratic Party supported Carney as their candidate of choice.

"The whole Democratic establishment was behind Carney," Bauer said. Delaware Democrats "tried to persuade Markell not to run," asking him to wait his turn, she added.

Since his primary victory, Markell has worked to unify the party's base by gaining the support of many leading state Democrats, including Minner and the State House Democratic Caucus. He has also gained the support of his previous rival, Carney.

Carney "has been very gracious," Markell said of his rival in the primary. "He will support me 100 percent and, as a result, people are inclined to come together."

Markell attributed the record voter turnout in the primary to his campaign's grassroots efforts and "compelling and concise" communication.

"I've demonstrated an ability to connect with independents and Republicans," Markell said of his success.

"Though Carney may have had the support of the Democratic Party, Markell had a very strong grassroots campaign," Bauer said.

"I would even compare him to Barack Obama," she added, referring to the Democratic presidential candidate.

Petro said that those who knew Markell at Brown are not surprised by his accomplishments.

"He is a very funny guy," Petro said, "but underlying that he's always been deadly serious. He really strongly believes he can make the world better through the governmental system."

"Delaware can do better ... starting with education," Markell said. Because education leads to a stronger economy and more jobs, Markell said, one of the first things he will do in office will be to change the way education is funded.

In order to inform Delaware's voters about his position, Markell published an 83-page book entitled "Blueprint for a Better Delaware," which lays out his positions on many key issues including the environment, jobs and education.

"A lot of campaigns are really focused just on the rhetoric," Markell said, "but I gave people a lot of detail (in the book). People are entitled to know exactly where I stand."

Delaware has been cast into the national spotlight recently by Obama's selection of Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.

"This has brought a lot of excitement to Delaware," Markell said. "Biden is an amazing, amazing guy. He is helpful to all Democrats running at this time."

During his three terms as state treasurer, Markell inaugurated a series of policies recognized for their innovation and effectiveness. In 1999 he created the Delaware Money School to promote financial literacy by offering free classes on topics such as saving for college tuition. Twenty thousand Delawareans have attended classes at the Money School so far, according to Markell's campaign Web site.

Markell said that he was probably most proud of his work on financial literacy.

"I'm a big believer that the more you give people the tools, the more effective they will be," he said.

Markell said he was inspired to get involved with public service during his senior year of high school, when he spent a few days in India while traveling with his family. It was there, he said, that he realized that the world was a lot bigger than he expected. He realized then that he wanted to get involved in public service, though at the time he did not know how.

In 2000 Markell was named one of the 100 Rising Stars of the Democratic Party by the Democratic Leadership Council. In the same year, he was also named one of the 10 most innovative leaders of the country under the age of 40 in The New Democrat magazine.

Prior to his career in politics, Markell worked in the private sector. He spent about 10 years with the wireless technology companies Comcast and Nextel.

At Brown, Markell concentrated in economics and development studies.

"He believes that he can," Petro said. "He believes in himself and the system."


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