Former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden was long seen as the governor-in-waiting, but there are new questions about his plans.
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Delaware's gubernatorial election rarely attracts much outside attention. Until recently, it looked like the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Jack Markell wouldn't be too exciting, but recent developments have made this a race to watch.
Incumbent: Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE)
Assumed Office: 2009
2012 Primary Results: Markell 100 (unopposed)
2012 General Results: Markell 69, Jeff Cragg (R) 29
2012 Presidential Results: Obama 59, Romney 40
Former Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, has been touted for higher office for a long time. When Biden returned from serving in Iraq in 2009, there was serious talk of him seeking his father's old Senate seat in the next year's election. However, Biden passed on the chance and chose to run for another term as state attorney general. Last year Biden decided not to seek re-election, and it was no secret that he was planning to run for governor in 2016. Prominent Democrats deferred to Biden, and there didn't seem to be any Republicans who could put up a real fight against such a well-known figure in this blue state. Nothing was guaranteed, but this very much seemed to be Biden's race to lose.
In the last few months though, there's been real doubt if Biden will actually be on the 2016 ballot at all. His health has been poor in the past, and he needed surgery back in August 2013 to remove a brain lesion. Biden has made very few public appearances in the past year and he surprisingly made few public comments during the end of his tenure as attorney general. Biden's aides maintain that he's running for governor and so far he's been raising money and hiring campaign staff. But plenty of observers are wondering if Biden's health has taken a turn for the worst, and think he'll stay out of the contest in the end.
It's very unlikely that any credible Democrat will challenge Biden if he enters the race, but some are thinking about jumping in if he doesn't go for it. Rep. John Carney has been openly mulling a bid, saying that he's "much interested if Beau Biden decides not to run." Carney served as lieutenant governor and ran for governor in 2008, but surprisingly lost to Markell in the primary. Carney quickly rebounded and easily won the state's lone House seat, which he'd need to give up if he wants to be governor.
Attorney General Matt Denn and New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon are also potential Democratic candidates. Denn only won his post in 2014 but he served as lieutenant governor for six years, and he's had his eye on higher office for a while. While Gordon isn't a statewide elected official, about 60 percent of the state (and a greater share of the primary electorate) lives in New Castle County, so he wouldn't struggle with name recognition. If Carney does leave the House, Denn or Gordon may also decide to try and succeed him rather than against him.
The GOP hasn't won this seat since Mike Castle's 1988 re-election. However, First State Republicans can still win statewide victories if conditions are right. State Sen. Colin Bonini announced his candidacy back in November: Bonini came very close to being elected treasurer in 2010 so he may have some potential. State Sen. Greg Lavelle, who represents a swing district north of Wilmington, is also considering a run. Republican leaders are trying to recruit newly elected Treasurer Ken Simpler; Simpler pulled off a 10-point victory in November, which could set him up well for higher office. But Simpler hasn't said much about his plans and he may decide to wait things out.
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