The GOP’s Next Sher Thing
Sher Valenzuela is a rising star at this convention.

Sher Valenzuela


Jim Geraghty

Most important, perhaps, is that Simon is now beginning his first year at the University of Delaware. “To overcome those things in the way he has, we’re very proud of that,” Valenzuela says.

Besides narrating a personal story of triumph that touches on some of the electorate’s most pressing concerns, Valenzuela is likely to offer an indictment of the 2009 stimulus law.

“When you’re talking about regulations, fiscal management, gross mismanagement in some cases — those are the kinds of things that compelled me to step into this arena,” she says. “You see it in many states, and you definitely see it happening at the federal level. We’re concerned about the economy and the management of overall systems that are going to create an environment for growth or an environment that stops it.”

On the campaign trail in July, she pointed to the example of Fisker Automotive, Inc., an American automaker that received $528 million in Energy Department loan guarantees. Fisker was slated to recommission an old GM plant in Delaware to manufacture its electric cars, the Karma and the Nina. Those plans have seen repeated delays as the company has encountered setback after setback — a model breaking down during a Consumer Reports road test, a recall of 2,400 sedans, disappointing fuel-efficiency grades, and delays in the production of the station-wagon version of the Karma. Vice President Biden announced the reopening of the GM plant back in 2009, touting it as an administration success story; as of April, Fisker employed only “a small maintenance team” at the site.

“This is the way that business is not created,” Valenzuela said at the July rally. “Whether or not Fisker was coming to Delaware, the verdict has been delivered: It didn’t deliver jobs. The reason I’m running is that misappropriated funds from the federal government, in the form of stimulus, have been delivered to states across this country, including Delaware, but they have not landed and created economic development. They have not created jobs.”

She pointed out that her opponent, Delaware lieutenant governor Matt Denn, is in charge of the state’s management of the stimulus funds for weatherization programs.

“It never ended up in the hands of the people it needed to get to,” Valenzuela said of the stimulus funds. “Small business creates the jobs of our country. It epitomizes the American dream. We don’t have to bribe big business to come to any state to create jobs.”

So, will Valenzuela emerge victorious in a state that has been tough for Republicans in recent cycles?

“She has an uphill battle, with the Democrat machine firmly entrenched behind her rival, and the registration difference between Democrats and Republicans,” admits John Sigler, chairman of the Delaware GOP. “But Sher brings a new dynamic to the table. She’s one of our ‘real people’ candidates: real people who have created real jobs, real solutions, for our economy and our state.”

The party chairman notes that the Democrats’ registration advantage will be tested by the voters’ sense that the state has veered off track dramatically.

“While the economy is undoubtedly Issue One, Delaware for years and years was always considered to be one of the one or two most business-friendly states in the country, but recent surveys and polls have it down somewhere around 43 — that is a very real issue,” Sigler says. “[Governor] Jack Markell’s leadership and Democratic majorities in the state legislature have been anything but good for businesses. . . . While the Delaware unemployment rate is better than the national average, it’s still not good, worse than it should be.”

And now Valenzuela will have the advantage of a brief moment in the national political spotlight.

“When I got the call [to speak at the convention], I was amazed,” she says. “It still amazes me. You don’t wake up expecting that kind of call on any day. It was a ‘whoa!’ moment.”

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.