Posted: May 14, 2003




Beau Biden is making his way in the family business. Where he expects it to take him, he is not telling.

Biden spoke Tuesday evening to about 20 members of the Delaware Young Democrats, gathered at party headquarters in Newport. From all appearances he was there to discuss his role in the successful 2002 campaign of his father, but the talk is that he is out and about because the next Biden campaign in Delaware will be his own.

Beau Biden -- formally Joseph R. Biden III -- is 34. A former federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, he is newly married and practicing law in Wilmington at the firm of Monzack & Monaco. Whenever political speculation turns to the next election for state attorney general in 2006, his name always pops up.

Not that Biden himself is saying. "I'm focused on building my family and building my law practice," he said. "'06 is three years away."

Attorney General M. Jane Brady, a Republican, will be up for a fourth term in 2006. If she runs and Biden does, too, there would be a certain symmetry to it. Brady's first try for office was a race against Joe Biden in 1990 when the senator was going for his fourth term.

Interestingly, both Joe Biden and Jane Brady were winged as they looked toward a possible fourth term. Biden was coming off the meltdown of his campaign for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, when charges of plagiarism and similar foibles doomed him. Brady is coming off her worst showing for attorney general, a 2002 win with only 48 percent of the vote and further evidence that she is out of the Tonya Harding-Mike Tyson school of campaigning.

Beau Biden brings to politics that well-known name, the Biden smile and no reported sightings of the Biden temper, if he has it at all. Painfully precise, he immediately corrected the record when someone mentioned Tuesday evening that he had run his father's campaign, pointing out it was Valerie Biden Owens, his aunt and Joe's sister, who was in charge.

"I did not run it. My aunt would first go after me, then after you," he said. "I helped my aunt."

Beau Biden has to be regarded as one of the young Democratic guns who are on their way or would like to be. That also includes Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., Treasurer Jack A. Markell, New Castle County Council President Christopher A. Coons and Matthew P. Denn, the governor's legal counsel who has his sights set on the 2004 insurance commissioner's race.

At the core of Biden's talk Tuesday evening was the reason so many Democrats are jostling for position -- and without a comparable Republican lineup to go against them.

Biden displayed a map of northern New Castle County depicting the arc of Brandywine Hundred, Greenville and Pike Creek Valley as politically "persuadable" territory, populated by ticket-splitters receptive to Democrats.

It is a mind-bending development. This is an area that used to be reliably Republican, about as open to Democrats as the Augusta National Golf Club is to women. They can come occasionally as guests but ought not to try to make themselves at home.

It is a key reason why Thomas R. Carper, then the Democratic governor, ousted Republican William V. Roth Jr. from the U.S. Senate in 2000. It is also a key reason why political observers increasingly consider Delaware to be a Democratic state, instead of the swing state it has been.

Biden approvingly quoted Glenn C. Kenton, a Republican strategist and ex-secretary of state, who recently said, "We will not elect another statewide Republican who is not an incumbent for a long time -- unless George Bush turns out to be the next George Washington."

As Biden spoke, his brother Hunter showed up. Robert Hunter Biden, who is a year younger at 33, is a lawyer with the firm of Oldaker Biden & Belair in Washington. He previously worked in the U.S. Commerce Department during the Clinton administration.

Hunter Biden looked a lot like Valerie Biden Owens keeping an eye on her brother-the-candidate. It is, after all, the family business.

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The bride wore white, and the groom wore a kilt, and they paraded into their wedding reception under a huge party tent to the wails of a bagpiper leading the way.

The occasion was as much political as matrimonial. The groom was David S. Swayze, a political playmaker who is a lawyer and lobbyist, a Democrat who nevertheless was the chief of staff for Republican Gov. Pierre S. du Pont. The bride was Carolyn H. DePew, an administrator at Delaware Technical & Community College with her own political credentials from her work as an aide to Dale E. Wolf, a Republican lieutenant governor.

They were married Saturday at their vacation home in Dagsboro, their connections as well as Swayze's knees on display, as shown by clicking on a smuggled photograph here.

The guests included Supreme Court Justice Myron T. Steele, regarded as likely to become the next chief justice, along with Chancellor William B. Chandler III and Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely, the ranking judges on Delaware's leading courts.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner was not there, but it hardly mattered. Robert L. Byrd, Gary B. Patterson and Edward R. "Ned" Davis, lobbyists who constitute a shadow Cabinet for the Democratic governor, were.

Legislators were present, too. Prime among them were Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Senate's Democratic president pro tem, and Sen. Nancy W. Cook and Joseph G. DiPinto, the Democratic and Republican tag team who co-chair the Joint Finance Committee.

Ridgely, a close friend, officiated at the ceremony. It was an act vastly appreciated by one wedding-goer, who could not help quipping, "As long as he's marrying people, he's not hanging them."