Posted: March 15, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Democrats' congressional primary jam looks a lot like Tom Carper's fault.

Carper has been in state politics for a long time. Forty years, as a matter of fact, since his first race in 1976, long enough to win 13 times statewide, more than any other Delawarean, dead or alive.

Along the way, Carper has been the Democratic state treasurer, congressman, governor and now senator, and he has had to come up with a slew of people as aides and Cabinet members.

Three of them are part of the crowded field in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13 for the state's single congressional seat -- which, it should be noted, is enticingly available because it is being given up by John Carney, who happens to be another Carper guy, most prominently as his finance secretary, now running instead as the Democrats' candidate for governor.

"I feel bad. What was I thinking?" Carper joked.

Among the Carper congressional contingent, there is Sean Barney, a senatorial ex-staffer who already tried to follow Carper into office by running for state treasurer in 2014. There is Lisa Blunt Rochester, who went from congressional intern to labor secretary. There is Bryon Short, a state representative who worked for Carper when he was the congressman and governor.

The Democratic primary also includes Bryan Townsend, a state senator. Oh, and Mike Miller, but he is a serial candidate. The Republicans have Hans Reigle, who used to be the mayor of Wyoming, and Rose Izzo, another serial candidate.

No way should people expect Carper to sort it out for them by endorsing. Awkwaaaard.

"You know sometimes, like people try to vote more than once? I think in this case I'd like to vote at least three times. I'd get in trouble doing that," Carper said.

"It's like asking you to choose between your three favorite children. They're not children. They're wonderful adults. Any one of them who ended up in the Congress would be a real blessing to Delaware and a gift to our country."

Carper is hardly the only officeholder to be prolific with his political offspring, who could wind up after this election including the governor and a new colleague in the congressional delegation. Still, he would have to go a way to rival a lieutenant governor from 30 years ago.

That would be S.B. Woo, a Democrat who served a single term and then ran against Bill Roth, the Republican senator, in 1988. The staff for that campaign? The twenty-something versions of Jack Markell, Chris Coons and Matt Denn, or in other words, the governor, senator and attorney general. Whatever, Woo lost, anyway.

The right question to ask about a race involving so many Carper people is probably not why but what took so long?

Barney, Rochester and Short all agree it is no coincidence. As Short put it, "Carper cares very much about his staff. He wants his staff to grow and to continue to serve Delaware in bigger and perhaps more meaningful ways."

If Carper will not say which candidate he is voting for, he is nevertheless willing to offer up which one, by process of elimination, he will not be voting for.

"Pull for the home team. We're all part of Carper town," Carper said.

So, Bryan Townsend? Some other time.