As Delaware now starts printing 2010 election ballots, they’ll have a conspicuously empty space across from Democrat Beau Biden.
The slate of candidates is finalized now that the September 2 deadline for political parties to add candidates to the November general election ballot has passed. And while both the Republican and Democratic parties did manage to fill ballot slots in state House races, the Delaware GOP failed to draft a candidate to run against incumbent Attorney General Biden.
In July Delaware Republican Party Executive Director Seth Wimer admitted it was difficult for the GOP to find a candidate to challenge Biden but remained “hopeful” they would recruit someone by the September deadline. GOP Chairman Tom Ross is disappointed that ultimately, no one was willing to jump in and blames a “perfect storm” of circumstances, starting with the economy.
“In prior election cycles, some of the major law firms in the state would be anxious to have an associate or partner leave, take a six month or eight month vacation from the firm, go and campaign and, if they weren’t successful, a job was waiting for them when they got back,” said Ross. ”In these tough economic times, it’s very difficult for someone to go to their employer and say ‘Hey, how does it sound to you if I take eight months?’ They are not sure there will be a job waiting for them when they get back.”
Ross also found those he recruited worried about the resources the Biden campaign could bring to the race, including the attorney general’s father, Vice President Joe Biden. “(Vice President Biden) can bring a lot of force to bear in terms of fundraising, local support, name I.D.,” said Ross. ”There are a lot of attorneys that reach a certain level and some of them aspire to be judges. Sometimes folks run to be attorney general because they think it is checking the box on the ladder to be on the bench. There is some apprehension that running against a Biden may impact you in that regard.”
Delaware Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Katie Ellis finds all of that hard to believe. ”Basically you look at it and you say ‘how is it possible they weren’t able to recruit a single person willing to run’ and the truth is they knew they would not be able to take him down,” said Ellis.
Biden says the lack of a Republican opponent “doesn’t change a thing for me.” He plans to continue his re-election campaign as planned. “The way I run campaigns is I focus on what I want to achieve and set about doing. That’s what I’m focused on. That’s what I focused on in 2006. That’s what I focused on as Attorney General and that’s what I will be focusing on as a candidate for reelection,” said Biden.
Biden is not completely unopposed. Doug Campbell is running for attorney general under the Independent Party banner.
The Democratic and Republican parties each filled one empty ballot spot this week among the races for the state House of Representatives. Delaware Democratic Party Executive Director Josh Schoenberg is taking a leave of absence from his job with the party to run against Republican Representative Greg Lavelle in the 11th district. Ellis believes challenging Representative Lavelle, who was first elected back in 2000, sends an important symbolic message.
“He has been the lead obstructionist in this past General Assembly, really just refusing to work with the Governor or with the Democrats to get anything done and encouraging his caucus to do the same,” said Ellis. “We decided the best way to hold him accountable is to make sure that he gets a strong opponent.”
In the 19th district, the Republicans have Vince Ruff to challenge the incumbent Democrat, House Speaker Robert Gilligan. Like the Democrats in the 11th district, Republican officials feel its important to challenge Speaker Gilligan, who has held the seat since 1972.
“I think the argument is that with Bob Gilligan being in the House of Representatives for well over 30 years, I’m not sure what else he wants to accomplish, “Ross said. ”In the short term, he has sponsored some really controversial legislation, so we have a candidate with some real deep roots in the community, a dynamic guy, a small business guy with some state experience and we are confident he will be a viable candidate.”
After the two party additions to the November ballot, 31 of the 41 seats up for grabs in the State House are contested; 13 involving a primary. Eight of the 11 state Senate seats are contested, with two primaries.
Primary day is September 14th. The general election is November 2nd.