Posted: April 30, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are a number of lawyers planning to go the Republican state convention. Part of it could be to ensure they are not drafted to run for attorney general.

This includes Ferris Wharton, who was the Republican candidate the last time in 2006.

His unwavering stance this time is to Sherman out, as the political expression goes. It refers to William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general whose politics were as scorch-earthed as his command when he squelched talk of the presidency by declaring, "I will not accept if nominated."

Attorney general is the one glaring deficiency for the party in what otherwise has been a strong recruiting performance for its statewide ballot in 2010 -- particularly with Mike Castle for the Senate and Michele Rollins for the House of Representatives.

It leaves the Delaware Republicans in danger of going to their convention, where they will endorse statewide candidates May 15 in Rehoboth Beach, with nobody to anoint for attorney general.

Somebody get the Kryptonite.

The Republicans weathered seven losses over 36 years for the Senate seat Joe Biden kept in the Democrats' column, until he left strictly on his own terms for the vice presidency, and now Beau Biden is running unscathed for a second term as attorney general?

"We're hopeful. It's a big decision, especially in this economy, for people to walk away from gainful employment to seek office," said Tom Ross, the Republican state chair.

"One of the realities is, his father is the vice president of the United States. When a candidate can bring the resources that Beau Biden can, it makes the calculus a little more difficult."

In a sense, Beau Biden created the situation himself. He was supposed to be running for senator after the interregnum of Ted Kaufman, a trusted family adviser, but U-turned back to attorney general amid the public horror over the sex abuse case of the Sussex County pediatrician accused of preying on his own patients.

The Republicans were expecting Wharton to run, but he was interested only if it was an open race. If Biden was staying in, Wharton was staying out.

Not that Wharton approves of the way Biden has handled the office -- not with some problem prosecutions like the unsolved murder at Delaware State University, staff shuffling at the highest levels, and troubling questions about the pediatrician's case, which is the subject of two inquiries, one ordered by the governor and the other by the Attorney General's Office itself.

Wharton is dubious, though, whether such concerns can be voiced adequately within the confines of a campaign, particularly after Biden spent a year away as a National Guard JAG captain in Iraq.

"The numbers didn't add up, and it wasn't going to work," Wharton said. "I think he gets a bit of a pass based on his being gone for a year."

Biden shrugged off the criticism. "It was an incredible honor to serve in Iraq," he said. "I don't think you ever stop proving yourself to the people. In public life, you have to earn their trust every single day. I do my best every single day to protect the citizens of the state."

The dirty little secret of the Republican Party is it actually could benefit from not putting up much of a fight for attorney general.

Oh, there will be someone. It would be embarrassing for the Republicans not to harry a Biden, especially while they are relishing the idea of embarrassing the Democrats by installing Castle in the vice president's old Senate seat.

The Republicans would not mind finding a candidate who could impress the voters enough to win the office in 2014.

Parties, like people, have only so much time, money and energy. As the 2010 election year has unfolded, the Republicans want to send Castle to the Senate and keep the congressional seat he is giving up. They are desperate to take back the state House of Representatives and think they might slip in Colin Bonini as state treasurer with a primary in the other party.

There is really not enough oxygen left for attorney general, too.

Besides, there is nothing that could rouse the Democrats more than a call to defend a Biden. It could impact every race on the ballot. Not to mention it could bring the vice president riding to the rescue. That would really get the Democrats stirred up.

Joe Biden could be resigned to seeing his Senate seat go. But his son? Never.