Posted: July 28, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

"Congressional Notebook" is a collection of  items about Delaware's  delegation in Washington. It takes a look at the 2010 congressional race, judicial nominations and one member's claim to fame.

The Democrats were desperate to have either Jack Markell or John Carney peel off, leaving one for governor and one for Delaware's single seat in the House of Representatives.

The voters sorted out what the Democratic leadership never did. Carney eventually agreed to run for the Congress -- just a campaign cycle too late.

The rivalry for governor was traumatic for the party. It is relieved to have a race for the House not divided against itself.

More than relieved, actually. The Democrats, here and in Washington, are downright cheerful. They expect Carney to flip the seat from Republican to Democrat after the 9-term tenure of Mike Castle, who declared he is more likely to run for the Senate or retire than run for re-election.

"We've been listed as one of the top Democratic races. They say they're very excited about this. I'd like to believe what they say," Carney said.

Carney, who was the lieutenant governor for eight years while Ruth Ann Minner was the governor, is working these days as an executive in green energy technology, like wind power.

It is turning him into a politician with business experience, although a politician really ought to think twice before associating himself with a business that makes its decisions based on which way the wind blows. Voters do not need any new reasons to think about politicians that way.

Carney advanced his cause by turning in a solid fund-raising effort for the first three months of his candidacy. At the end of June, he reported $235,000 in his treasury, a respectable down payment on what Castle typically spends on a campaign -- $1.8 million in 2008 and $1.1 million in 2006.

Carney had some help from Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman, the state's Democratic senators. They hosted a breakfast for him in Washington last month along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Washington has taken notice. Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, wrote in its July 17 edition, "He is likely to waltz to winning the House seat next year."

Delaware Republicans have noticed, too. Tom Ross, the state chair, is trying to soften Carney up.

"He would be an interesting candidate. I don't know what he would tell people as to why they should vote for him," Ross said. "He's a nice guy, but he didn't have the courage to stand up for what was right for Delaware when he was one of two people leading the state. I don't know how you'd expect his voice to be heard when he's one of 435."

If only the Republicans had a candidate with the courage to stand up against him . . .

# # #

One president and a congressional delegation ago, Delaware needed a new judge for the U.S. District Court here. It still does.

The four-judge bench has been working short since December 2006, when Judge Kent Jordan moved up to the Third Circuit Court.

Procrastination killed a judicial appointment for Colm Connolly, the U.S. attorney who has moved on to private practice in Philadelphia. The Bush administration, which was supposed to be full of friendly Republicans, took its own time in nominating him. The Senate, which had an indifferent, if not hostile, Democratic majority, took a cue from the White House and ran the calendar out.

For once, there was an example of the Republican administration and the Democratic Senate in accord on how to do something. Maybe bipartisanship is not always what it is cracked up to be.

Time has passed, as have the presidency from Bush to Obama and the congressional delegation from Biden-Carper-Castle to Carper-Kaufman-Castle.

Carper, as the senior senator, sent three judicial candidates to the new administration about three months ago for consideration, offering up Andre Bouchard and Mary Graham, both lawyers, and Leonard Stark, a U.S. magistrate judge.

Carper's office has yet to be given a timeline on the nomination, so the delay goes on. There is still no change for the federal court to believe in.

# # #

Ted Kaufman got to the Senate because of his honorary membership in the Biden clan and a wink from the new vice president to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, not to mention the great seat she got for the presidential inauguration.

Not surprisingly, Kaufman looked for a way to forge his own identity in the two years he will have in the chamber. He thought he found one when he was told that Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, was the only other senator with an engineering degree. Kaufman has a degree in mechanical engineering from Duke and worked for DuPont before he got involved with Joe Biden, beginning with the first senatorial campaign in 1972.

Kaufman approached Reed to suggest they anchor some sort of engineering caucus, perhaps with an eye to promoting science and engineering as an element of economic recovery.

Reed demurred. He explained there was really only one engineer in the Senate and it was Kaufman. Reed has an engineering degree simply because he went to West Point, which bestows them on all of its military graduates, regardless of their field of study.

"I'm not an engineer," Reed told Kaufman. ""I'm a poet."