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©_2002_Authorized and_paid_for_by_the Committee_to_Elect Vivian_Houghton Attorney_General, 800_N_West_St., Wilmington_DE_19801

Committee to Elect 
Vivian Houghton Attorney General

The News Journal, Oct. 20, 2002, Page A-6

Green Party candidate not 'humdrum'

Vivian Houghton wants equal rights for Delawareans

Staff reporter

Vivian Houghton drives a 1995 Oldsmobile with a bullet hole near the gas tank.  The car was hit this spring while parked outside her row house in the 800 block of Bennett St. on Wilmington's East Side. 

"There was a drug war going on," Houghton said of the gunfire that erupted on her street.  

Houghton, 60, has lived on Bennett Street nearly 15 years and the Green Party candidate pledges to remain there if she is elected Delaware's next attorney general. Many of her senior citizen neighbors, who are afraid to sit on their porches or let their grandchildren play outside, are rooting for her. 

"She wants to work with the poorer class of people, the working class and she wants to do the right things for the neighborhoods," said Thelma Owens, a neighbor and DuPont Co. retiree who gave $10 to the campaign. 

Critics have said Houghton could be a "spoiler" in the attorney general's race by siphoning votes from her Democratic opponent Carl Schnee, and leading the Republican incumbent M. Jane Brady to victory. 

She said she sees it differently.  The Green Party is a clear alternative to the two big political camps, and she intends to win, she said. 

Houghton has loaned her campaign about $40,000 and she has taken some unusual stances, such as suggesting that chief executive officers of big corporate polluters be forced to live within feet (sic) of their companies. 

"It's not the same humdrum campaigns the Republicans and Democrats like to put on for people," she said. 

Houghton is one of seven Green candidates seeking an attorney general position nationally this year, according to the party.  She is the first Green member to ever run for the job in Delaware.  

Ralph Nader endorsed Houghton earlier this month, saying the attorney general job was especially important here given Delaware's popularity for incorporations. No one from the party has ever been elected to an attorney general position. 

Houghton said she started to become disillusioned with the Democratic Party when she saw Democratic legislators question the inclusion of an equal rights amendment to the state constitution. She said her misgivings grew because she felt the party was doing too little to support minorities. She joined the Rainbow Coalition and managed Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in Delaware in 1986. She has been a member of the Green Party since Feb. 14, 2000.

"The Green Party represents what I idealized the Democrat Party to be," Houghton said.  To her, it's about fair labor, civil rights, women's issues, protecting the elderly and equality in employment and opportunity. Those are all things Houghton thinks translate into what Delaware needs in an attorney general.  She said she wants to be the top prosecutor to provide justice to ordinary citizens, who she thinks are often overlooked. 

"People want to hear something hopeful," she said.  "I'm not going to stop fighting." 

Houghton said many of her friends think she's crazy for living in her East Side row house, but she loves the sense of community.  She grew up as Vivian Bobeck on Linden Street in Wilmington's Hedgeville neighborhood, in a home where eight people shared one bathroom. She lived there until age 19. 

Recently she knocked on doors along her old street, reminiscing about her days marching with a trumpet in the Pulaski Legion band. She stopped at a Jackson Street door, recalling the home as the former residence of her godmother.

"I'm a lady from the 'hood and you know what that means," the candidate told the new occupant.  "I understand what the problems are." 

Houghton handed the man a pamphlet that explained her platform, everything from her intent to investigate Delaware's big polluters to her belief that people should receive equal pay no matter their color, gender, or sexual preference. She had a stack of those pamphlets in Spanish, too, and conversed in the language with Spanish-speaking voters. She is a grandmother of three, two of whom were adopted from Guatemala. 

"That's one of the reasons I have a soft spot for the Hispanics," she said. 

Houghton once entertained thoughts of being a language teacher, and she wonders today whether she wouldn't have made more of a difference that way. Besides Spanish, she speaks enough Polish to get her through annual trips to the land of her roots.  She skipped Poland this year. 

Karen Peterson said she knows what a hard campaigner Houghton is. Houghton ran Peterson's successful bid for New Castle County Council president in the 1980's. 

"There was not a day off in a year," Peterson recalled. "We had a campaign meeting on Christmas Day, only because she felt it wasn't a good idea to knock on doors." Houghton recruited Peterson with a speech about the need for strong women in government. 

Houghton says she became a "flaming feminist radical" after she enrolled at the University of Delaware in her 30s during the 1970s.  She put herself through school working a series of jobs from waitressing to bartending to checking hats. She sometimes packed snacks and coloring books, and took her elementary school age daughter, Lucia, to class. 

Houghton has been married and divorced twice, and she still carries the name of her second husband, Rep. William I Houghton, D-Swanwyck Gardens. 

The women's movement sparked Houghton's interest in politics and she started working on campaigns in law school as a Democrat. Her first campaign was her husband William Houghton's winning bid for New Castle County sheriff. 

Houghton estimated she has worked for 35 candidates in her life, including 10 whose campaigns she managed. This is her first run for office, and she said the contacts she made and lessons learned in past campaigns are valuable. 

"You can't take that away from me," she said. "I'm not some wacko third-party person who has come out of nowhere." 

During her days at UD, Houghton said she decided she wanted to empower herself by learning the law so she could help change things for women. She enrolled in what is now Widner University School of Law. She worked giving legal assistance to the indigent and became the attorney for the New Castle County register of wills after graduation. In less than two years, she started a solo practice, but worked part time for the public defender's office.  She handled employment discrimination cases, bankruptcies, consumer fraud complaints and criminal defense work. 

Houghton was on her own for about 20 years before Houghton, Holly and Gray formed two years ago. It's the kind of office where her legal assistant, Kathy Hart, is encouraged to bring her grandchild to work. Houghton helped Hart win guardianship of the child. 

"Vivian is very supportive of kids being with their moms," Hart said. 

[web note: This News Journal page A-6 article included two picture of the candidate and included the following sidebar.]


  • Name: Vivian A. Houghton

  • Party: Green

  • Age: 60

  • Residence: Wilmington

  • Occupation: Attorney, Houghton, Holly & Gray, Wilmington

  • Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Delaware; law degree, Widner University School of Law

  • Family: Twice divorced, one grown daughter

  • Prior public-civic service: Worked as an assistant public defender for eight years; former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union and New Castle County YMCA; served as Delaware National Organization for Women coordinator for the Equal Rights Amendment extension; past Democratic president of Delaware Women's Political Caucus.

  • Web site: www.vivianhoughton.com/vivian 

  • E-mail: agcandidate@vivianhoughton.com