Posted: Jan. 13, 2014
THE GENERATIONS, THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'
By Celia Cohen
Leo Strine Jr. is about to bring a demographic distinction to the Delaware Supreme Court.
His nomination would make him the youngest chief justice since the creation of the modern high court in 1951. Strine is 49.
Strine would also be the first baby boomer to lead the court system. It figures. It is another sign of the way the heights of the judicial branch lag behind the other two branches in generational change because of its elongated 12-year terms.
The leadership in the executive and legislative branches, along with the congressional delegation, is bustling with the Baby Boom and Generation X.
More Gen Xers are on the way.
The state treasurer's race, which is looking like the hottest election in 2014, is shaping up to be an all-Gen X affair. It has three candidates who are part of the population born between 1965 and 1980.
Chip Flowers, the Democratic treasurer, was born in 1974. He has turned himself into a magnet for challengers, as he appears to be making a serious effort to do himself in after a single term.
Within Flowers' own party, Sean Barney recently resigned as the policy director for Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, to set up a campaign that would lead to a primary. Barney was born in 1975.
On the Republican side, there is Ken Simpler Jr., a financial professional who just filed the paperwork to run for treasurer. Simpler was born in 1967.
"It's time for our generation to step up," Simpler said.
At least one other Gen Xer is, anyway. Brenda Mayrack, a Democratic lawyer born in 1977, is running against Tom Wagner, the Republican auditor whose birth date in 1955 makes him part of the Baby Boom, which lasted from 1946 to 1964.
The first Gen Xer to get himself into statewide office did it without anybody really noticing. That would be Matt Denn, born in 1966, elected as the Democratic insurance commissioner in 2004 and now a two-term lieutenant governor.
Among the nine statewide offices, Delaware has a breakdown of six boomers to three Xers.
Baby Boom: Tom Carper, Democratic senator born 1947; Karen Weldin Stewart, Democratic insurance commissioner born in 1948; Tom Wagner, Republican auditor born in 1955; John Carney, Democratic congressman born in 1956; Jack Markell, Democratic governor born in 1960; and Chris Coons, Democratic senator born in 1963.
Generation X: Matt Denn, Democratic lieutenant governor born in 1966; Beau Biden, Democratic attorney general born in 1969; and Chip Flowers, Democratic treasurer born in 1974.
It should also be noted that boomers occupy the top legislative posts with Patti Blevins, born in 1954, as the Democratic president pro tem in the Senate and Pete Schwartzkopf, born in 1955, as the Democratic speaker in the House of Representatives.
All in all, with Strine coming along, the boomers are still ascendant here.
Although Strine is about to be the youngest chief justice, he was not, as the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets have reported, the youngest member ever to sit on the Court of Chancery, where he was appointed as vice chancellor in 1998 at 34 and chancellor in 2011 at 47.
Instead, it was Collins Seitz, the judge famed for his civil rights decisions. He was a mere 31 years old when he was named vice chancellor in 1946, and he looked even younger.
When Seitz once tried to park his car with its judiciary license plate by a yellow curb, a police officer told him, "Young man, your father wouldn't like this."
Seitz was part of the GI Generation, an overbearingly masculine name for the population born between 1901 and 1924, later recast by Tom Brokaw as the Greatest Generation. What a generation it was, right out of the history books -- John Williams, Bert Carvel, Caleb Boggs, Lou Redding and Bill Roth.
Like old soldiers, the GI Generation did not fade away until Carper, the boomer, took out Roth for a Senate seat in 2000. It looks like it will be a while before the boomers give way to the Xers, or will it be to those up-and-coming Millennials?