Posted: Aug. 2, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Whenever Tom Carper is on the ballot, he has breakfast on Election Day at Arner's Restaurant in New Castle. No doubt it is already on his schedule for Nov. 6, 2012, when he will be up for a third term in the U.S. Senate.

The ritual will be 30 years old then, dating from the time Carper was the Democratic state treasurer engulfed in a tense race to get to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Winning, if not breakfast, never tasted so good. Since that Election Day in 1982, Carper has been back to Arner's for the conclusion of four more campaigns for congressman, two for governor and two so far for senator.

Counting three pre-Arner's elections for treasurer, Carper is looking at his 13th race for statewide office next year. For someone who is wedded to lucky breakfasts, Carper certainly looks like someone who would be superstitious about running for the 13th time.

"Boy, I am. That's why I work so hard," Carper quipped.

It should be noted that a 13th campaign season, after all, is the one that did in Mike Castle, a Republican who was supposed to be unstoppable.

Castle's winning streak as a lieutenant governor, governor and congressman was broken in a 2010 primary by Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party Republican who dabbled in enough political witchcraft to keep Castle out of the Senate but not enough to get herself in.

Eerie stuff. "If it happens to him, it can happen to anyone," Carper said.

Not that triskaidekaphobia -- fear of the number 13 -- has the ghost of a chance of scaring Carper out of politics, not triskaidekaphobia or anything else.

Carper says he has committed to the campaign, not to mention he is already going full-speed-ahead on fund raising with a goal of banking $2 million by the end of the year.

Victory #13 would be a new Delaware record, breaking a tie between Carper and Castle. With a new six-year Senate term lasting until 2018, Carper also could set a state record for longevity with 42 years in office, or maybe not. It would depend on how Joe Biden is counted.

If Biden gets another term as the Democratic vice president, his public life would stretch for 46 years, including two years as a New Castle County councilman, 36 years as a senator and eight years in the Obama administration. It would make Biden the longest-serving Delawarean, to be sure, but not the longest serving in statewide office. Let history sort it out.

There is certainly no reason to think Carper will be out in 2012. The Democrats do not have anything like a Tea Party, no Woodstock Nation or whatever, and the Republicans do not have a candidate. There is some talk about either Glen Urquhart, their 2010 congressional candidate, or Kevin Wade, a Fair Tax advocate who favors replacing income taxes with a national sales tax.

Never mind that Urquhart got clobbered the last time or that a sales tax is right up in popularity here with the Indian River Bridge construction job and the doorway that Tony DeLuca, the Democratic president pro tem, ordered for his Senate office.

If somehow the election did become precarious, Carper also has what Castle did not -- practice in running a race he might lose. Castle had some serious opponents through the years but never a dangerous one until it was too late to figure it out. Carper knocked off both Tom Evans, a Republican congressman, and Bill Roth, a Republican senator.

It all shows that politics is a combination of conviction, timing and luck. No one ever said it better than Steve Solarz, once a Democratic congressman from Brooklyn.

Solarz got to the House by filing against an incumbent, who was indicted, tried and sent to jail. He managed to stay in the House when he was reapportioned into a neighboring district with another congressman, who was indicted, tried and sent to jail.

As Solarz put it, "What my career demonstrates is the importance of convictions."