Posted: Jan. 4, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The expansion of the Biden family franchise officially was noted Wednesday evening with a public reception for the new office.

It was immediately clear that the new entity would have a separate identity and not simply be a satellite operation when the serious part of the event, the offerings of speech and prayer, lasted a crisp 11 minutes -- none for the father and only four for the son. People were stunned.

"The Lord got talked to more than we did," said one shocked but happy listener.

The place was awash with titles, but the only honorific the family was throwing around was the one recently acquired by their favorite faculty member at Delaware Technical & Community College. The new attorney general introduced his parents as "Dr. Jill Biden and Joe Biden."

The gathering at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington was as festive and lighthearted as a bar mitzvah reception, attended by more than 500 people, including the entire membership of Beau Biden's fellow Democratic Class of the Future -- Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., Treasurer Jack A. Markell, Insurance Commissioner Matthew P. Denn and New Castle County Executive Christopher A. Coons.

It may have been Beau Biden's event, but there were too many Democrats for the Class of the Future not to want to work that crowd.

Some Republicans came, too, most notably U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle. He said he was being sociable -- "I have a lot of friends here, not necessarily supporters" -- but it could not have hurt that he was able to show off his return to fit fighting form, after his September mini-stroke, just in case the Class of the Future was getting any ideas about 2008.

There was a sense of a dual reception with two centers of gravity, one surrounding U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the other Attorney General Joseph R. Biden III, and the handful of reporters covering it moved like a little band of asteroids from one orbit to the other.

Here in the early days of 2007, Beau and Joe presented the extremes of Delaware's statewide officeholders -- with the son in his second day in office and the father entering his 35th year.

Beau Biden, now 37, has come a long way from the state's first searing image of him as the three-year-old boy in the hospital bed, his leg fractured, as Joe Biden took his Senate oath in January 1973, not even three weeks after the automobile crash that killed his first wife Neilia and their 13-month old daughter Amy and left their two-year-old son Hunter with a head injury.

Like his brother, Robert Hunter Biden became a lawyer, now with a private practice in Washington and a presidential appointment to the Amtrak board. He also is developing a reputation as adept at raising campaign contributions -- helpful to both father and brother.

Despite the widespread speculation that Joe Biden wants Beau Biden to take his Senate seat someday, Joe Biden insisted to skeptical reporters that he had tried to talk his son out of running for attorney general and into staying at Bifferato Gentilotti Biden & Balick, a prospering law firm in Wilmington.

"I said, Beau, look, you've got a good law firm, why don't you wait a while," Joe Biden said, quipping that when his time comes to go into a nursing home, all that Beau would be able to afford for him on an attorney general's salary was "a room without a window."

Maybe Hunter Biden can provide better.

Somewhat out of public view, another part of the family franchise is expanding. Joe Biden's campaigns are run by his sister Valerie Biden Owens, and her daughter Valerie James "Missy" Owens ran Beau's. Missy is a lawyer, but instead of returning to work at a corporate law firm, she says she will be "doing something for Uncle Joe," who has his Senate office to run, the Foreign Relations Committee to run, and a presidential campaign to run.

Missy Owens enjoys the law, but the blood tells. "That was 'like,' and this is 'love," she said.