Committee to Elect
Vivian Houghton Attorney General
The News Journal, Oct. 20, 2002, Page A-6
Party candidate not 'humdrum'
Vivian Houghton wants equal rights for Delawareans
By MARY ALLEN
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
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
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
"People want to hear
something hopeful," she said. "I'm not going to stop
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
"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
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
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