Posted: April 17, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Another Beau Biden pronouncement, another bombshell. This makes three.

The first was Biden's decision not to take an appointment to be attorney general when it was being offered to him on a silver platter.

Biden had scared Jane Brady, then the Republican attorney general, out of the race and into a judgeship before her term was up, and Ruth Ann Minner, then the Democratic governor, was ready to turn the office over to him, but he decided the more manly thing to do was run for it in his own right as the Democratic candidate in 2006.

The second was Biden's about-face out of the Senate race for his father's old seat.

This one was set up for him, too. The idea was to keep the Senate seat in the family orbit, once Joe Biden became vice president, by passing it to Ted Kaufman, the Bidens' trusted adviser, as the appointed senator who would not run for it, and then to Beau Biden by way of a titanic campaign in 2010 against Mike Castle, who was supposed to be a shoo-in for the Republican nomination as the congressman and ex-governor. Oh well.

Instead, Beau Biden came back from a National Guard tour in Iraq and made up his mind to run again for attorney general, citing a commitment to prosecute Earl Bradley, the pediatrician who sexually abused his own patients.

Now this. In the same way Biden's swerve from the Senate race was announced by a blast e-mail out of the blue, he dropped another e-mail Thursday to say he would not run for re-election in 2014 but for governor in 2016, when Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, reaches the two-term limit.

"As I've been planning to run for re-election, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for governor in 2016. What started as a thought -- a very persistent thought -- has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue," Biden wrote.

"Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election as your attorney general this November. The Office of Attorney General is a four-year commitment. Its responsibilities are too significant, and the voters' trust too important not to give it my complete and undivided attention. It should not be, nor can it become, a two-year staging ground for another elected office."

Between Biden's health scares with the stroke and the lesion in the brain and his electoral swings, he has commandeered attention in Delaware politics for nearly a decade like nobody else.

Biden had both the 2014 and 2016 elections paralyzed for months while he recuperated from his treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, because it was unclear whether he would or could run for re-election or for governor.

Now he has utterly scrambled everything.

"This morning's announcement shuffles the political deck," said Charlie Copeland, the Republican state chair.

Copeland's comment was made in what is usually referred to as a written statement, but really, this one might better be called an understatement.

Naturally, the Democrats and the Republicans both need candidates for attorney general.

The Democrats are expected to wait politely to see whether Matt Denn, the lieutenant governor who is in the middle of his term, is interested, although he is unlikely to be, and they could look at Kathy Jennings, the state prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office.

Other Democrats believed to have ambitions are Chip Flowers, who has had his troubles as treasurer, Bryan Townsend, a first-term state senator who is a lawyer, Alan Davis, the chief magistrate, and Ciro Poppiti, the New Castle County register of wills. Drew Fennell, a gubernatorial staffer who used to run the state ACLU, could also be in the mix.

The Republicans, who ran nobody against Biden in 2010 and had nobody yet for 2014, might turn to Colm Connolly, the former U.S. attorney, as their first choice.

Biden's decision has more ramifications than the race for attorney general, however.

Just as his presence had cleared the field there, it can be expected to have a similar effect on the governor's race and the potential candidates, particularly the Democrats, like Denn and Tom Gordon, the New Castle County executive.

For the Republicans, Biden's departure was a surprise gift for the 2014 election.

If they can get Connolly or someone like him to run for attorney general, they can build a real live ticket around him and fill those embarrassing blanks where candidates ought to listed against Chris Coons, the Democratic senator, and John Carney, the Democratic congressman.

It is fair to say that the shape of Delaware politics over the last half-dozen years flows directly from Joe Biden and Beau Biden.

Things had been so static at the top with Joe Biden and Tom Carper as the Democratic senators and Mike Castle as the Republican congressman, all blocking any dramatic realignment.

Then Joe Biden's elevation to vice president begat Castle's exit and Christine O'Donnell's moment in the political sun and Coons' place in the Senate and Carney's in the House of Representatives, and heaven only knows what Beau Biden's maneuverings ultimately will mean.

Beau Biden has taken this state on a wild ride as he set out to prove he was his own man, going where his father had never gone before, as a National Guard officer, two-term attorney general and perhaps a future governor.

It is tempting to think it could not get wilder, but that would be only if Joe Biden and Beau Biden are not running at the same time, the father for president and the son for governor. Yikes.