Posted: Nov. 3, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

This election is being sponsored, Sesame-Street-wise, by the Number Four. Here are four things that are coming in fours.

FOUR NEW OFFICEHOLDERS. There are four statewide races -- for governor, congressperson, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner -- on the 2016 ballot, and all four of them are going to put someone new in each office.

This is a rarity in a state that tends to stick with its statewide officials as they run again and again and again and again. Here's looking at you, Tom Carper.

Delaware has not had turnover involving every race on the statewide ballot since 1992, and the circumstances are similar. There was a whole lot of scrambling mainly because the state had a two-term governor who could not run again and a congressman who ran for governor, and the other offices got caught up in it, too.

This time it is John Carney, the Democratic congressman who is the decided front-runner to replace Jack Markell, the departing Democratic governor. The last time it was -- guess who? -- Tom Carper. He was the Democratic congressman in what is the most famous job swap in state politics, as he went to Dover and Mike Castle, the outgoing Republican governor, took over in D.C.

Nobody else has this knack of moving around the ballot like Treasurer-Congressman-Governor-Senator Carper. He has been four new officeholders all by himself.

AND CARNEY WOULD BE FOUR. Carney would be the fourth Democratic governor in a row, if he defeats Colin Bonini, the state senator who is the Republican candidate, and it certainly looks that way. A recent poll conducted for the University of Delaware showed Carney at 60 percent among likely voters.

Carney would follow Jack Markell, Ruth Ann Minner and -- who else? -- Tom Carper.

ANOTHER FOURSOME. Carney would also be the fourth ex-lieutenant governor to be elected governor in modern politics, which dates from 1970 when the major parties switched to selecting their statewide nominees by primaries instead of conventions.

The others were Sherman Tribbitt and Minner for the Democrats and Castle for the Republicans.

As a matter of fact, the most typical way in modern politics to get to governor is to be the lieutenant governor first. The next most typical way to get there is from the congressional seat, which was the method for Pete du Pont for the Republicans and -- him again -- Carper.

Carney, however, would be the only one who doubled up as both the lieutenant governor and the congressman beforehand.

FOUR FOR THE STATE SENATE. The Republicans are fielding four candidates as they try to end the longest streak of futility in Delaware politics, namely, their efforts to upend the Democrats' control of the state Senate, where the Republicans are currently outnumbered by 12-9.

The Republicans have not won the state Senate since 1972, but they lost it abruptly in a double-cross as soon as the chamber convened two months later, as two of their own voted to put the Democrats in charge, where they have remained to this very day.

So the last time the Republicans won was 44 years ago. This arithmetic, like the election, is being sponsored by the Number Four.