Posted: Feb. 5, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are three prime politicians who look like they could need work in 2016. In the small-world politics of Delaware, people know them so well, all it takes to say who they are is their first names.

That would be Jack, John and Beau.

Jack Markell, the Democratic governor. John Carney, the Democratic congressman. Beau Biden, the former Democratic attorney general, whose father set the standard for this first-name style of politics, namely, the vice president familiarly known as "Our Joe."

Jack reaches the two-terms-and-out limit for governors in 2016. John will be finishing up his third term as the state's lone congressman. Beau says he is running for governor.

That said, it would be logical to think the most enticing statewide office available in the next campaign season would be lieutenant governor, which has been standing empty since Matt Denn was elected as the Democratic attorney general and left it behind.

Think again. What is actually going on is a nervous jockeying for the congressional seat, a shadow primary of maybe five Democrats not named John Carney and four Republicans who can see themselves sitting in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

It has someone close to Beau Biden wondering whimsically if there is not some mid-decade redistricting taking place to give Delaware another seat?

This is all about Beau, of course, and the appearance that he has not recovered enough to run for governor since his medical scare, which sent him to Houston to have what a doctor described as a "small lesion" removed from his brain in August 2013.

The official line on Beau's political future has not changed.

"Beau's been saying the same thing since April. He fully intends to run for governor," said Josh Alcorn, a political aide.

So it is a little bit like ghouls on parade out there, the premise being that Beau will not be running for governor, but Carney will, setting off a rush for a seat that has not truly been open since Pete du Pont went from Republican congressman to governor all the way back in 1976.

It is a powerful draw, but it comes with a powerful drawback. That would be the excruciating challenge of trying to finesse a situation involving a Biden.

This calls for a Jedi master, someone who can pose, running, am I not?

Nobody wants to be in, but nobody wants to be out. It is much worse of a quandary on the Democratic side than the Republican. Some of the people said to be eying a candidacy are more adept at it than others.

Take Chris Bullock, the New Castle County Council's Democratic president. He notes sagely that his commitment to the Obama-Biden legacy could suit him for running for either lieutenant governor or federal office, although this is easier said than done. The fund-raising rules are different for state and federal office, and time is already passing.

"I'm hoping it's something the next governor would embrace, whatever position I'm in," Bullock said, not without adding that his political credentials come with also being an African-American pastor, "and it's time we have a woman or minority in Washington to represent Delaware."

Then there are Brenda Mayrack, the Democrat who ran for auditor, and Sean Barney, the Democrat who ran for treasurer. They sounded like they were reading from the same script.

"My good friend John Carney is our congressman now. I would not be challenging him, obviously," Mayrack said, although also mentioning, "I built a statewide organization. I am personally committed to doing what I can to make our state a better place."

Barney put it this way, saying, "I support Congressman Carney. I hope he's running for re-election. Not that I will matter much, but I will do what I can to support him. I'd like to still be making a difference and making a contribution in some way. It depends on what's out there."

A couple of legislators are also said to have put out feelers. Because they are Bryan Townsend, a Democratic state senator from south of Newark, and Bryon Short, a Democratic state representative from Brandywine Hundred, they are being referred to collectively by their first names, although how to spell it would be anybody's guess. The Briens?

Here is what Townsend, one of the Briens, is saying, "People have suggested that I take a look at that. I hope Beau is in a position to run. If he was not to be, and the congressional seat were to open up, then I would consider that possibility."

The take from Short, the other of the Briens, is, "Things are fluid and not fluid at the same time. If there's a spot that's a good fit for me to expand the service I do for Delaware, I would be interested."

The size of the Republican field also reflects the clandestine expectation there could be an open congressional race.

Rose Izzo, the congressional candidate in 2014, updated her Web site to read 2016. Other Republicans who have expressed interest are Hans Reigle, a former Kent County Republican chair, as well as Fred Cullis, a businessman who ran for state senator in 2010 against Patti Blevins, the Democratic president pro tem, and Ian MacFadyen, a restauranteur.

The irony is, the congressional scrum could turn out to be so much ring-around-a-rosy, where all fall down. This brings it back to Jack, John and Beau.

They are Jack, John and Beau. They can bigfoot anyone else.

They have time. They have shown they can raise a million dollars at will. They have the luxury of waiting on one another and wind up swapping offices among themselves.

The only thing for sure is Jack is out as governor. Nobody bigfoots the constitution.