Posted: June 17, 2015
THE BIDEN EFFECT
By Celia Cohen
The Delaware Democrats have lost their standard bearer for the governor's race in 2016 without Beau Biden, and nobody has moved a political muscle.
How strange it is. The nature of politics is to abhor a vacuum, yet this void stands.
State politics has not known what to do with itself since May 30, the day Beau was knocked out of the governor's race the only way he could be.
The situation must come to an end eventually, because Delaware has to get itself a new governor next year, no matter what, considering the state constitution will not let Jack Markell stay on as the Democratic governor for a third term.
The wait that went on for Beau has shifted to a wait on John Carney, the Democratic congressman, and then gangway.
The present standstill, however, is a reminder of the way Joe and Beau Biden have commanded the state's attention since Joe blew up political convention here more than 40 years ago by seizing a Senate seat from Caleb Boggs, a Republican warhorse in public office for 26 years as a senator, governor and congressman, and then taking his oath while Beau lay nearby in a hospital bed.
Time and time again, Joe and Beau have remade politics. Here are some of the milestones.
1972: Joe Biden is elected senator
Joe made history by winning a Senate seat while still waiting for his 30th birthday to come on Nov. 20, so he would be old enough to take office, but his groundbreaking did not stop there.
He not only busted up an all-Republican congressional delegation of Boggs and Bill Roth in the Senate and Pete du Pont in the House of Representatives, but he also broke up the political establishment that consisted of a dominant Republican Party along with Democrats who were moneyed or had Dixiecrat tendencies or both.
With Joe's breakthrough, the Delaware Democrats were on their way to attracting centrist-thinking suburbanite voters and becoming the majority party they are today.
1987: Joe Biden is in and out for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination
Joe was on the rise when he went for president, but he crashed and burned as one of the earliest casualties of the emerging age of information technology.
Video was coming into its own, an early forerunner of YouTube today, and Joe was caught up in it. There was video showing some remarks of his were suspiciously similar to Neil Kinnock, the British politician. There was more video of Joe sarcastically putting down a voter in New Hampshire.
As a political analyst said, "What was damaging for Joe Biden was the videotape revolution."
Joe got it. Shortly after he dropped out, he was chairing a hearing when Al Simpson, a Republican senator from Wyoming, claimed he had left no written speeches behind, and Biden cracked, "I think you'll find a bunch of them are taped, Al."
2005: Beau Biden spurns an appointment for attorney general
The prospect of a race against Beau in 2006 was enough to make Jane Brady, the Republican attorney general barely re-elected in a three-way race in 2002 with 48 percent, quit the field.
Brady got a judgeship from Ruth Ann Minner, the Democratic governor, and it certainly looked like Minner was teeing up an appointment for Beau to serve out the remainder of Brady's term and then run for attorney general himself.
Instead, Beau declined to take the office without getting elected to it.
Not only did he win, but it showed he was determined to make his way on his own terms. It also put two Bidens in statewide office at the same time -- Joe as senator and Beau as attorney general.
2008: Joe Biden is elected vice president
Delaware gets glory.
2009: Beau Biden does not run for the Senate
The Senate race in 2010 looked like it would be one for the ages with the Democrats putting up Beau, running for his father's old seat, and the Republicans countering with Mike Castle, the state's longest-serving congressman ever as well as a past governor.
It never happened, of course, and not just because Castle was waylaid by Christine O'Donnell and the Tea Party.
Beau decided to run for re-election, instead. He said he would not walk away from the case of Earl Bradley, the Sussex County pediatrician who sexually preyed on his own patients. Once again, Beau was his own man.
2014: Beau Biden takes himself out for attorney general but in for governor
By now, the surprises should not have been surprises. Beau walked away from re-election by declaring he wanted to run for governor in 2016, and it would not be proper if winning the governorship meant bailing out midway through a third term as attorney general. Logical, but there were also questions about his health.
Beau's announcement cleared the Democratic field for governor. It induced Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor who was a likely candidate, to run instead for the open office for attorney general.
When Denn won, the upshot was there was no vacancy for attorney general, but there was one for lieutenant governor, because the state constitution never bothered to provide a way to get a replacement, not by appointment or special election or a vote by the legislature or anything else, not even a lottery.
Delaware is down a lieutenant governor until someone new is elected in 2016.
2015: The race for governor opens up
Whatever, it will carry the mark of the Biden effect.