Delaware’s former Governor Jack Markell was infamous for touting the Smarter Balanced Assessment as “the best test Delaware ever made”. His very dangerous creation was a high-stakes test designed to test, label, and punish schools in Delaware with “low-performing” students. But Markell was very used to high-stakes games. In fact, nine months before he became Governor, it could have cost him his life!
On February 22nd, 2008, in the locker room of the Wild Quail Country Club in Camden-Wyoming, 12 people played a high-stakes poker game. Jack Markell, the State Treasurer of Delaware at that time, was one of the players according to various sources who wished to remain anonymous due to the obvious fear of retribution. The poker players were robbed at gunpoint. The thieves stole cell phones, car keys, and almost $10,000 in cash and credit cards. The robbers came in and put pillow cases over the heads of the players. In the ensuing investigation, evidence showed HyunJim Kim, the ringleader, buying the red pillow cases at the Camden Wal-Mart. Kim was also one of the poker players and was arrested on March 3rd along with three brothers from Philadelphia later that month and two other suspects from New Jersey later that year.
From the PA Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 38 blog:
Kim was arrested March 3 in connection with the Feb. 22 robbery at Wild Quail Country Club near Wyoming. Police say Kim was one of the poker players when three armed men burst in and took about $10,000, car keys and cell phones from the players. According to police, a store video showed Kim purchasing pillowcases used by the robbers to shroud the players. One of the players, a state trooper at the time named HyunJin Kim, arranged for others to come in and rob the poker players.
There were 12 players in the high-stakes poker game. Jack Markell was one of them according to my sources. Another was Kim. I would love to know who the other 10 players were! At the time, Markell was the State Treasurer for Delaware and was already campaigning for Governor. Markell beat John Carney in the Primary that September and went on to become Governor that November.
The big question is if Markell would have won the Primary if folks knew he was involved in illegal gambling. Yes, the high-stakes poker game robbery was illegal according to an ABC News article on March 5th, 2008:
The Wild Quail Golf and Country Club, meanwhile, vowed to ramp up its security to prevent unauthorized gambling in the future.
In true Delaware fashion, Carney was supposed to be the frontrunner for that election. Markell beating him was a shock to most Delawareans. Carney, who was the Lieutenant Governor under Governor Minner at the time, was very disappointed in the outcome.
For a minute, imagine if word got out that Markell was playing an illegal poker game that was robbed at gunpoint. This was in February, 2008. Could that have been enough for Carney to win the Primary that year? Imagine what Delaware would have been like had Carney become Governor instead of Markell. Would we have seen the same drastic changes to public education that Markell embedded? The recession in Delaware under Carney would have been very different than how Carney handled it. Would DSEA have endorsed Carney?
In working on this story I reached out to some in the state asking if they heard about this. They said never and were shocked at the thought of the straight-laced Markell taking a risk like that. But we are all human. We all have a vice of some sort. For Markell, his was revealed in a locker room at an elite country club. It just took ten years for the people of Delaware to see that vice.
I would imagine Markell, if my sources were correct, never participated in an event like this again. At least I would hope not! You could say he opted out of those high-stakes tests! As for those who committed the robbery, all have been released with the exception of one of the brothers who was the only one not to do a plea bargain. He is still serving his 70-year sentence at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
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“Imagine what Delaware would have been like had Carney become Governor instead of Markell. Would we have seen the same drastic changes to public education that Markell embedded? ”