After her upset loss to Republican Dave Lawson, longtime 15th District senator Nancy Cook talked with the Dover Post about her career in public office and what's next
When the Delaware State Senate convenes in January, the chamber will be full of familiar faces. The body was spared any real turnover in this year’s elections, but the one seat that did flip parties ousted one of the state’s most stalwart lawmakers: Democrat Nancy Cook.
First elected in 1974, Cook took the seat after the death of her husband Allen J. Cook, who held it for 16 years before that.
Cook was known in Legislative Hall for her almost monarchical status as longtime co-chair of the budget-drafting Joint Finance Committee. As far as many were concerned, little got put into the state’s annual budget, or taken out, without Cook’s say-so.
In one of the biggest victories for Republicans this year, political newcomer David G. Lawson toppled Cook to take the reigns in the 15th, a sprawling district that encompasses nearly all of western Kent County, from Smyrna to the outskirts of Harrington.
The Dover Post talked with the former senator a few days after the election.
Q Delaware candidates, figuratively and literally, bury the hatchet on Return Day. Is that true of you and Dave Lawson?
A Obviously I congratulate Dave, we rode in the Return Day parade together. I ran against many formidable opponents — Bobby Quillen, Bill Myers, Pam Thornburg, Dave Burris, and obviously Dave Lawson. Always after the election we became not just good friends but we always worked together on behalf of the citizens.
Q Looking back on your years in the Delaware Senate, what kind of legislator would you say you were?
A My No. 1 priority was always constituents and voters in the district and that hasn’t changed. Anything I can do to help, I will always be willing. I was elected for 36 years by the same people in that district, I’m very proud of what was accomplished. I served with seven governors, and I had either eight or nine co-chairs of the [Joint Finance Committee]. The majority of the years I was there, the House of Representatives was one party and the Senate was another, so we had to build a consensus. We had a bipartisan approach; my main wish is that that doesn’t disappear from Legislative Hall.
Q What do you think you’ll be doing now?
A My mom is 97 years old and the last few years it’s been difficult to spend the time that I need to help with her care. Obviously I will have that time now; it’s something I look forward to.
Q Do you think you’ll continue to be active in politics?
A I hope that I would always be involved. I certainly have been for all these years; involved with supporting candidates, out campaigning with them. I don’t expect that to ever change.
Q You were well known in the Senate as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. Do you think the JFC will change without you? Is there anything you hope to see the JFC continue to do in your absence?
A The JFC will be fine. The autism program is always one I’ve been very close to; I don’t want to see that go. I don’t think everyone realizes the challenges families have to meet. Obviously education has always been a priority; the direction we take in that is very important. I have confidence that the General Assembly will do what they’ve done in the past and make sure even when revenues are short that the priorities are preserved.
Q There was a lot of anti-incumbent fervor this election cycle. How does that compare to other elections you’ve been a part of?
A You have this phrase “career politician.” I don’t consider them to be career politicians, I consider them public servants. I’ve seen elections in the past where the pendulum swings back and forth. Was incumbency an issue? Absolutely. The incumbency existed because I was elected by the people in that district. In all the elections that I’ve participated in and have ran against very formidable candidates, I have never used a negative campaign against anyone. And I think it’s very sad what is happening in elections and the negative literature that can be sent out by [political action committees] to attack candidates. I don’t think in the end the public appreciates a truly negative campaign.
Family: Husband Allen J. Cook, deceased; one adult son, one adult stepson
Career: Delaware state Senate, 1974 to 2010
Email Doug Denison at email@example.com