Posted: Feb. 17, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The year was 1976. A Republican state senator named Mike Castle was leaving politics for his law practice. A Democratic rookie candidate named Tom Carper was running for state treasurer.

People could be excused for not giving much thought to either one of them. Who knew they were on their way to leading intertwined lives and dominating Delaware politics for years to come?

Carper won his race for treasurer. Castle did practice law, but he was back in public office four years later when Pete du Pont, running for his second term as governor, recruited Castle for lieutenant governor.

Since Castle's return in 1980, there has not been an election without either Carper or Castle on the statewide ballot. Sometimes both. Carper was elected treasurer, congressman, governor, senator. Castle was elected lieutenant governor, governor, congressman.

They were twin moderates, separated by party. The voters regarded them so similarly, they could have been Teletubbies.

How else to explain the 1992 election? Castle and Carper swapped jobs. The governor became the congressman and vice versa.

The 2010 election could bring more togetherness. Castle and Carper could hold the same office at the same time. Eyes may cross.

Castle wants to join Carper in the Senate by running for the seat soon to leave the Biden protectorate. Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive hustling to set up a Senate campaign on the Democratic ticket, will have something to say about it.

There are political feats at stake.

TRIPLE CROWN. Castle would join Carper in the elite ranks of Delawareans who have been governor, congressman and senator. Two others did it -- J. Caleb Boggs in the mid-20th Century and Daniel Rodney in the 19th Century, although Rodney got to the Senate by appointment to fill a vacancy. He was never elected.

It is a stunning collection of titles. Not quite "Mr. Vice President," though.

EX-GOVERNORS TOGETHER. Throughout the country's history, so many governors have gone to the Senate, it is about as notable as saying there are lawyers in the Senate. Or egos in the Senate.

It is not even particularly noteworthy to have two ex-governors from the same state at the same time. New Hampshire and Nebraska both have all-gubernatorial contingents in the Senate now.

Delaware by itself has sent five governors to the Senate -- Richard Bassett and Joshua Clayton in the 18th Century, John Townsend in the 20th, Boggs and Carper.

EX-GOVERNORS & EX-REPRESENTATIVES TOGETHER. What is less common is senators who previously were governors as well as members of the House of Representatives. By the count of the Senate Historical Office, there have been 124 of them.

Not many served simultaneously from the same state. It appears to have happened only a dozen times -- but just once since the Constitution was amended to have senators elected by popular vote, instead of state legislatures, since 1913.

The old legislative method was abolished because it was riddled with all manner of chicanery, an array of vote-buying, dealing and double-dealing, and arm-twisting. The system was so bad here that Delaware once went four years with a Senate vacancy. It shows the endurance of the unofficial legislative motto, "Where's mine?"

AISLE HOPPING. If elected, Castle would break a Democratic lock of 38 years on the seat with Joe Biden and Ted Kaufman. It sounds impressive, except Carper undid 54 years of Republican occupancy in the other seat, where John Williams and Bill Roth once sat.

TWELVE AND COUNTING. The Delaware record for winning statewide elections is 12. Carper and Castle are tied for it. As if this would be a surprise.

Castle could edge ahead in 2010, but Carper could tie it again when his term is up in 2012.

Thirteen wins. Not that they are superstitious, but Castle always stops by Kelly's Logan House in Wilmington on Election Eve, and Carper always has breakfast at Arner's Restaurant in New Castle on Election Day.

They would bring a new twist to triskaidekaphobia. No fear of winning their 13th election, only of losing it. Another way they are yoked together.