Ted Kaufman, from Delaware, was appointed as a U.S. Senator after his former boss, Joe Biden, won the election to both the Senate and vice presidency. After stepping down, Biden’s chief of staff was appointed, but announced he’d effectively be a caretaker Senator by not running again in 2010.
It was then widely assumed that popular Republican Rep. Mike Castle would dominate this election as the state’s only U.S. House representative. But the political establishment was rocked after the Sept. 14 primaries when Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell bested Castle. Suddenly, the Democrats are feeling much more optimistic about the chances of Chris Coons taking over Biden’s old seat.
Candidates for Delaware Senator (four-year term)
Candidate: Christopher Coons
Political experience: Coon has been the New Castle County executive since 2004.
Professional experience: Coons was an attorney for Delaware-based W.L. Gore & Associates before becoming County Executive. He has worked for the National Coalition for the Homeless, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation and the Investor Responsibility Research Center.
Key issues: According to his website, Coons wants to fix No Child Left Behind and strengthen Head Start, Early Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs. He believes that a holistic approach to education includes concerns over housing, health care, crime and poverty impacting a child’s ability to learn.
When it comes to energy and the environment, Coons wants to increase wind farming off the shore of Delaware and, unlike most swing-district Democrats, is openly supportive of a cap and trade program on carbon emissions. He believes tackling the problem of greenhouse gases is essential to the future of Delaware.
Endorsements: Coons was endorsed by the American Postal Workers Union, Communication Workers of America, VetPAC, UAW, Delaware State AFL-CIO and the Delaware State Education Association.
Chances of winning this seat: In a sudden reversal of fortune, Coons has gone from a tight race that was leaning Republican to what could be an easy victory. According to OpenSecrets.org, Coons has a commanding monetary lead over challenger Christine O’Donnell, and is able to marshal $944,230 to her $20,374. O’Donnell exhausted nearly her entire campaign war chest to help her beat Castle in the primary. O’Donnell’s background hasn’t done her any favors of late.
Candidate: Christine O’Donnell
Political experience: O’Donnell has been a political commentator on national news outlets.
Professional experience: Prior to running for office, O’Donnell was a marketing consultant. She has worked at the World Education and Development Fund.
Key issues: O’Donnell is against increasing debt, against taxation and would simplify the tax code. She wants to see spending cut so that foreign debt holders don’t hold power over Washington.
On values, she states she’s for the sanctity of life at all stages and she supports private, parochial or charter schools as educational options. She’s received an “A” rating from the NRA.
Endorsements: O’Donnell has been endorsed by S.C. Sen. Jim DeMint, the NRA, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Tea Party Express, Independence Hall Tea Party PAC and Diamond State Tea Party.
Chances of winning this seat: Bluntly put, her chances are very, very slim. O’Donnell seems to be the gift that keeps on giving to the Delaware Democratic Party. She’s voiced unorthodox, controversial views regarding what constitutes sexual abstinence, she’s in financial hot water after defaulting on her mortgage and she’s been less than candid about her educational background. She’s also had to defend against comments about witchcraft that are coming back to haunt her.
She’s not well known in the state despite having run for the same office before. Delaware has demonstrated with Castle that it will vote Republican despite being a heavily Democratic state. But voters prefer moderates. O’Donnell is unlikely to draw those voters. However, her primary victory is a big win for the Tea Party movement, win or lose in the general race.
Key Differences between Republican and Democrat
Jobs: O’Donnell’s website lists each issue and gives a one-sentence description of her stances. According to the site, she “believes jobs are created when businesses are freed from endless taxes and bureaucratic red tape.” Coons wants to secure better trade agreements that focus on labor and environmental standards. He’d like jobs to be American as opposed to shipped overseas. Coons indicates he would end tax breaks for companies that do ship jobs overseas and he’d allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on schedule for those earning over $250,000 a year.
Health care: O’Donnell states she is against government intervention, in particular between doctors and patients. She’d encourage more competition in the insurance market. Coons supports the Obama health care reforms, which might be a risky stand in some districts and states, but less so in Delaware. He would like to see the FDA better funded to improve drug treatment reviews and he’d expand staffing to meet that goal.
2008 results: Biden defeated Christine O’Donnell 65 percent to 35 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 68.6 percent of the state is white, 20 percent black, 6.5 percent Hispanic, 2.8 percent Asian and 0.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.