Posted: March 13, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Elections are not just about who wins and who loses. They also tell something about the character of the state. What they say about Delaware is that change comes slowly, sometimes not at all.

JOE, WE REALLY KNOW YE. The 2012 election will make it 40 years that Joe Biden has been appearing on the statewide ballot here. His first campaign as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1972 was part of a different world, the Days of Rage when the youth of the land were telling themselves not to trust anyone over 30, and it could not mean him. Biden was 29.

Biden's first six times on the statewide ballot were for senator, his seventh time in 2008 was a double listing for both senator and vice president, as state law allowed, and his eighth time this year will be for vice president.

The last hurrah for putting an "X" next to the name of Joseph R. Biden Jr.? Even so, there is still Joseph R. Biden III.

IT'S A STREAK, IT'S A RECORD, IT'S TOM CARPER. At this moment, there are two Delawareans who were elected to statewide office 12 times. The tie goes to Mike Castle, the Republican lieutenant governor, governor and congressman, and Tom Carper, the Democratic treasurer, congressman, governor and now senator.

Castle could be forgiven if he came down with a case of triskaidekaphobia, because he got unlucky in his 13th try. Also if he came down with wiccaphobia, the fear of witches.

It leaves Carper all alone in this election to go for the scary record of 13 statewide wins. Not to worry, though. For his last nine races, Carper has been going to Arner's in New Castle on Election Day for a "lucky breakfast." It works . . . so far.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY. The Democrats have a streak going, and the Republicans have a streak going, and the most likely reason the streaks could be broken is Karen Weldin Stewart.

She is the Democratic insurance commissioner, going for a second term, and the only officeholder so far to find herself officially on the Endangered Incumbent List.

The Democrats have elected someone new to statewide office for four elections in a row now -- Matt Denn, now the lieutenant governor, as insurance commissioner in 2004, Beau Biden as attorney general in 2006, Stewart as insurance commissioner in 2008 and Chris Coons as senator in 2010.

The Democrats are fielding an all-incumbent ticket in 2012 with Carper for senator, John Carney for congressman, Jack Markell for governor, Denn for lieutenant governor and Stewart. If everyone wins, there goes the streak of electing someone new. This does not sound like a situation the Democrats would mind having.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have not elected anyone new to statewide office for eight elections in a row, not since 1994, when they made Jane Brady the attorney general. Stewart, who has had a weak first term, gives the Republicans their best chance to chuck this streak.

The Democrats have a primary for insurance commissioner between Stewart and Mitch Crane, who used to work for her as an administrator in the department. The Republicans seem settled on Ben Mobley, a financial adviser.

This means Stewart actually could keep the streaks alive for both parties. If she loses the primary to Crane and he wins the general election, then the Democrats get someone new in statewide office, and the Republicans get shut out. Again.

SAY IT AIN'T SO, DELAWARE. There are only four states that have never sent a woman to the Congress, and Delaware is one of them. The others are Iowa, Mississippi and Vermont. This is the word from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.

It is embarrassing, although probably less so than electing Christine O'Donnell would have been.

The 2012 election here looks to bring only more of the same. Against Carper and Carney, the Republicans have Kevin Wade for the Senate and Tom Kovach for the House of Representatives.

Vermont did not join the union until 1791, and Mississippi and Iowa were even later, so Delaware has gone the longest. From the founding of the Republic, it has never changed.