Posted: Oct. 30, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Democrats were in a celebratory mood, as if they had won an election, when about 180 of them gathered Saturday for the Truman-Kennedy Dinner at the Bridgeville Fire Hall in Sussex County.

They were upbeat because they were on the verge of picking up the attorney general's office without so much as a single literature drop.

It was happening because Gov. Ruth Ann Minner nominated Attorney General M. Jane Brady, a three-term Republican who was up for election in 2006, to the Superior Court, clearing the way for the Democratic governor to appoint someone to serve the rest of Brady's term.

Brady's nomination will be considered Nov. 8 during a special session of the Democratic-run state Senate. The chamber is likely to go along with the governor as fast as you can say "Labor Secretary Thomas B. Sharp."

In a fortuitous turn of the political calendar, the keynote speaker for the Truman-Kennedy Dinner was Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the senator's son and probably the only Democrat left in Delaware still dancing around the expectation that he plans to run for attorney general next year.

Even if Biden is as slippery as the dumplings the Bridgeville Ladies Auxiliary served up with the chicken when it comes to his candidacy, no one else is.

Bridgeville Mayor Joseph T. Conaway kicked off the dinner program with his version of Karnac the seer, holding a piece of paper to his forehead and intoning, "Beau Biden . . . the next attorney general in Delaware."

Mum was the word from Biden -- literally. "I do have an announcement tonight," he teased the crowd. "My wife Hallie is five months pregnant with our second baby."

For a non-candidate, Biden certainly came with the trappings of one. He was accompanied to the dinner by his wife and their 15-month-old daughter Natalie, as well as R. Hunter Biden, his brother, plus one of Hunter Biden's daughters and a couple of their father's aides.

There were no clues in Beau Biden's speech, which was a variation of what his father is saying in his unfolding presidential bid. Beau Biden criticized President George W. Bush and the Republican right, and he urged the Democrats to work to unite the country and reclaim the confidence of the middle class.

He was not as caustic as Joe Biden, who told a Kentucky audience last weekend as only he can, "The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat."

Instead, Beau Biden paraphrased Abraham Lincoln. "We are a party that respects all faiths," he said. "What the Republican ideologues should pray is not that God is on their side but they are on God's side."

The Democrats are pondering openly whether Biden would be better off if Minner appointed him attorney general, allowing him to run as an incumbent, or if he waited and ran on his own, avoiding the entanglement of being the coda to the deal that got Brady out of way.

"There's a tremendous advantage to being an elected official," said Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., a second-term Democrat. "You have access to people and things you otherwise wouldn't have. For example, you're allowed in parades. For someone like me, it was important. For someone whose name is Biden, it may not be as important."

If the Biden camp has a preference, it is not saying. "I want the governor to do whatever the governor thinks is right," Hunter Biden said.

The Democrats could have worse problems than a candidate who will not talk about it. With Brady on her way out, the Republicans do not even have a candidate to talk about.