Posted: July 17, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Before the last election or two, Delaware had a fairly robust Thirty Years Club, people in elected office for longer than three decades.

Politics has taken its toll, though, as it will.

Mike Castle, the Republican congressman and governor, was ousted by the Tea Party in 2010 in that shocker of a Senate primary. The Tea Party also got Nancy Cook, the Democratic legislator who was a state senator longer than anybody else.

Now Bob Gilligan, the Democratic speaker who spent 40 years in the state House of Representatives, is retiring, and so is Biff Lee, the senior member on the Republican side of the aisle after a mere 22 years in the chamber.

It means the General Assembly will convene in January without a state representative even in a Twenty Years Club.

Across Legislative Hall, the Senate Republicans are also losing their most-tenured member with the retirement of Liane Sorenson, the minority whip who became a state senator in 1994 after two years as a state representative.

It leaves Colin Bonini, elected in 1994, as the Senate's senior Republican at the politically youthful age of 47 years old.

"The most senior Republican is still the youngest state senator," Bonini quipped.

Officeholder Party Years Offices Notable
Joe Biden D 42 NCC councilman, senator, vice president

The winner and still champion, Biden holds the state record for the Senate with six terms and resigned his seventh to become the veep

Tom Carper D 36 treasurer, congressman, governor, senator Carper is up for his 13th statewide win, which would be the longest streak in state history
Mike Castle R 40 legislator, lt governor, governor, congressman Castle set the state record for congressman with nine terms
Bob Gilligan D 40 state representative Nobody was ever in the legislature longer than Gilligan, the speaker who is retiring
Nancy Cook D 36 state senator Actually, 36 years and nine months made Cook the longest serving state senator, from a special election in February 1974 until her defeat in 2010
Harris McDowell III D 36 state senator As long as McDowell gets re-elected, he overtakes Cook
Debbie Hudson R 18 state representative Hudson, who is running unopposed, is in line to be the senior House Republican
Colin Bonini R 18 state senator Bonini, another unopposed candidate, is set to be the senior Senate Republican
Helene Keeley D 16 state representative Keeley, also running unopposed, is on track to be the senior House Democrat

Current officeholders in bold