Posted: Nov. 16, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III turned down Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's offer to be appointed attorney general, ending a guessing game that has obsessed state politics for weeks, Delaware Grapevine has learned.

Instead, Biden committed himself to running for attorney general on the Democrats' 2006 ticket, as he was expected to do all along.

The two-step decision divorces Biden, a Wilmington lawyer who is the senator's son, from a political deal that created the opening for attorney general and lets him run for the office without that unsavory entanglement.

He had nothing to say Wednesday about the appointment, but he spoke openly for the first time about his much-anticipated candidacy.

"I am running for attorney general in 2006," Biden said in a brief telephone interview.

Biden has been the subject of raging speculation about the appointment -- would he or wouldn't he? -- since the blossoming of the deal in which Minner, a second-term Democrat, arranged a judgeship for Attorney General M. Jane Brady, a Republican.

The deal spared Brady from a precarious re-election bid in this Democratic-leaning state, and it gave Minner the chance to appoint a Democrat as a replacement until the voters elect someone new. Brady was confirmed by the state Senate last week and goes on the bench Dec. 7 on Delaware Day.

As the Democrats' projected candidate, Biden was a logical choice to serve out Brady's term and be able to run as an incumbent, normally a position of political strength, but there also were risks.

The Republicans already were on the attack, charging Biden would not be under consideration if his name was "Beau Smith." He could do nothing about being given his name, but he could do something about being given the office, and he did.

Although nothing has been said publicly about the appointment, either by Biden or the governor's office, the word was spreading rapidly through the state's political circles, and the Democrats appeared to be relieved by Biden's decision.

 "I hear from various sources, but not directly, that the Biden family has decided it would be in error for him to take the appointment," said Edward R. "Ned" Davis, a Dover lobbyist and former Democratic national committeeman who is close to the governor and the Bidens.

"I really think Beau would be better to win it in his own right and not get caught up in this stuff."

Rarely has there been so much intense speculation in Delaware politics about a decision, probably not since U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle thought about taking on U.S. Sen. William V. Roth Jr. in a Republican primary in 1994 but decided against it.

The intensity was not up to the level that occurred when U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. had to decide to drop out of the 1988 Democratic presidential race. The hubbub surrounding the arrest of Thomas J. Capano and the indictments of Thomas P. Gordon and Sherry L. Freebery are of a different ilk and do not count.

Meanwhile, the vacancy for attorney general still has to be filled. There does not appear to be any obvious appointee, although the names of Carl Schnee, a Democrat who lost to Brady in 2002, and Carl C. Danberg, a Democrat who is the chief deputy attorney general, have been mentioned.

Nor do the Republicans have a replacement for Brady on their statewide ticket. They would have liked U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly, retired Judge William Swain Lee or Assistant U.S. Attorney Ferris W. Wharton, but all three are said to be as uninterested in running for the office as Beau Biden was in being appointed to it.