Farm Team: Delaware Democrats Still Waiting on Their Beau

Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:28pm

State Attorney General Beau Biden remains the center of political speculation in the First State.

And it’s going to stay that way for a long time for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son.

Few local operatives have any idea when or how the Democrat can ascend in such a small state already dominated by his own party. Meanwhile, Republicans remain deeply divided in Delaware as their voter registration count lags behind Democrats. Operatives from both parties did not expect the GOP to pick up either of the state’s two Senate seats or single at-large House seat soon.

“Obviously, we hope we don’t have to replace anybody federally for a long, long time,” said Delaware Democratic Party Executive Director Joe Aronson.

The First State’s congressional delegation is relatively new to Capitol Hill. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a 66-year-old Democrat, just won a third term in November after serving a decade in the House. His fellow Democrats, Sen. Chris Coons, 49, and Rep. John Carney, 56, were both elected in 2010.

As a result, any vacancy in the near future would shock Delaware politics.

Biden shied away from running for his father’s seat in 2010, but he remains the first name most plugged-in operatives mention. If Biden forgoes another bid for higher office, many other local Democrats are eager to take his place in the political hierarchy. Democrats suggest Carney might run for the Senate eventually.

Other talented Democrats on the party’s radar include Gov. Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, state Treasurer Chip Flowers and state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long.

As for Republicans, the local party faithful remains fiercely divided more than two years after tea party activist Christine O’Donnell defeated former Rep. Mike Castle in the primary. Coons clobbered O’Donnell in the general election by more than 16 points in 2010.

Would O’Donnell, who became the bane of national Republicans that cycle, run again? Her former campaign manager, Matthew Moran, said it’s a possibility.

“We hear from Christine’s supporters everyday that they want her to run again,” he wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “However, both of her parents faced serious illness this past year so she won’t be making a decision about 2014 until they are in the clear.”

Moran blames the National Republican Senatorial Committee for her 2010 loss. In his view, O’Donnell over-performed given the lack of support the committee gave to other conservative candidates that cycle, such as Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Castle, a longtime member of Congress, is not optimistic the GOP will come back anytime soon in the state. He noted the local GOP has made gains and there are recent “positive steps” for the state party, but he worries that Democratic registration numbers weigh on anyone looking at running for House or Senate.

“The Democrats control all but one of the statewide seats, and they have a substantial plurality in terms of registration,” Castle added. “As a result, I think it has given pause to some Republican candidates in coming forward and running.”

Local Republicans did name a few future potential candidates: state Rep. Ruth Briggs King, state Sen. Ernesto Lopez, state Senate Minority Whip Leader Greg Lavelle and state Sen. Colin Bonini. They also mentioned 2008 lieutenant governor candidate Charlie Copeland, but his interest in federal office is unclear.

Farm Team is a state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress. The column runs on Thursdays.