Posted: Dec. 29, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Delaware enters the New Year with a new senator and a new representative in Washington and a governor at home halfway through his first term, altogether the least tenure in the state's leading political offices in 40 years.

The parallels between 2011 and 1971 are noticeable.

The officials today are Chris Coons as the newly-sworn senator, John Carney as the congressman-elect and Jack Markell as governor. They join Tom Carper, who went to the Senate 10 years ago.

Back then it was Bill Roth as the new senator, Pete du Pont as the new congressman and Russell Peterson as governor. They teamed up with Caleb Boggs, who had 10 years in the Senate.

They key difference? Carper, Coons, Carney and Markell are all Democrats. Boggs, Roth, du Pont and Peterson were all Republicans. Still, both sets were essentially upstate moderates. It is the parties that have flipped, not necessarily the voters. (So did Peterson, incidentally. He eventually became a Democrat.)

With all of the change 40 years ago, it was unforeseeable that the state was about to begin a remarkable era of political stability.

Joe Biden, elected as a rookie Democrat to the New Castle County Council in that same 1970 election, would be along in the Senate in another two years. Mike Castle was already a Republican legislator, and Carper would win his first statewide office for treasurer in 1976.

They set records for longevity. Coons, Carney and Markell have a long way to go if they are to set their own. Check back in 2050 or so.

Longest streak getting elected ever for a Delawarean. It belongs to Joe Biden, and where he stops, nobody knows. Counting his time on the New Castle County Council, he is rounding out 40 years in office with at least two more years to go as vice president, possibly another four-year term after that.

Longest streak in the Senate. Also Biden. He won seven terms, although he resigned the last one days into it to become vice president. The previous record holder was Bill Roth, whose five terms stretched from his election in1970 until his ouster by Carper in 2000.

Longest streak in the U.S. House of Representatives. Castle set the mark with nine terms, beginning with the 1992 election. Before Castle, the state had a couple of five-term congressmen, namely Carper and Louis McLane, a Jacksonian Democrat in the early 19th Century. McLane actually won a sixth term but never served it, because he was elected instead to the Senate by the state legislature, which is the way it was done in those days.

Longest streak of two-term governors. Delaware is in it. There have been four in a row. Pete du Pont, elected in 1976 and 1980, was the first. He was followed by Castle, Carper and Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat. It is up to Markell to try to keep it going in 2012.

Longest streak of statewide victories. Tie. Carper and Castle each have 12, Carper as treasurer, congressman, governor and senator and Castle as lieutenant governor, governor and congressman. Carper is up for re-election to the Senate in 2012. Castle was thwarted in his 13th try by a recovering witch.

Not that there is anything to superstition.