2010 Senate Campaign: Chris Coons for Delaware

The potential Democratic candidate for US Senate in Delaware is an excellent one, and progressives should get behind him.

Now that Beau Biden has officially passed on trying to take his Dad’s old Senate seat, Marc Ambinder reports that New Castle County executive Chris Coons is the Democratic front-runner to take on Republican fake-moderate Representative Mike Castle.  This is one of those races that progressives can get behind, because Chris would be an outstanding senator.

I knew Chris in law school, although I haven’t been in touch with him since.  But he is extremely smart and passionately committed to public service.  He also has a devastating sense of humor.

Although Castle poses as a moderate, he has voted with the Republicans virtually all the way down the line in the last session, opposing the stimulus, health care reform, and student loan reforms (although in fairness he did support Waxman-Markey: his complete voting record is here).  He’s been in Washington for two decades with nothing to show for it.  He’s sort of this year’s Olympia Snowe: if elected to the Senate, he’ll hem and haw and waste everyone’s time, and then do what Rush Limbaugh tells him to do.

This is an easy call, with an experience local progressive running against a Washington-based Republican who cuddled up to Newt Gingrich when it was convenient.  I hope Ambinder’s report is right.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

7 thoughts on “2010 Senate Campaign: Chris Coons for Delaware”

  1. Hmmm…I live in New Castle County. I am not sure that the County exec is much of a match for Castle. New Castle county government isn't particularly popular. I am not 100 percent sure, but I do believe Coons ran unopposed last time around. Delaware is full of places where the candidate of one party runs unopposed.

    I suspect Biden might have had a chance, but also that Castle is a shoo in. Too bad, because given the environment, we might as well be handing Alabama a third US Senate seat.

  2. Hi Rick —

    Thanks for this. My sense — and you can disabuse me of this — is that given Delaware's small size, even a county executive can challenge for a US Senate seat. Remember also that Al D'Amato was a county executive. I take your point; I also think very highly of Chris.

  3. I don't know much about upstate Delaware but those downstaters are a contrarian lot. Without Sarah of the North to vote against I suspect any Democrat is going to be hard pressed to hang onto that seat against Castle's smiling face.

  4. An illustration of the charachter of Slower Lower Delaware: I once saw a copy of the map showing the original land grants from the King Of England. The names on that map are the names of all of the wealthy and powerful people in the area today. The power structure of Sussex County Delaware was in effect established by the King of England in the seventeenth century and hasn't changed since. The good ol' boys like it just fine that way.

  5. I haven't lived in the state that long. However, I was a bit mystified by the 2008 election results. If I recall, Obama won with about 65 percent of the vote, Biden held onto the Senate seat and Jack Markell, a Democrat, won governor. From there, though the coattails didn't hold. Castle won election easily. Most of the balance in the legislature returned. In looking at the vote totals, it was surprising to see the number of unopposed candidates. In my area, in southern New Castle County, the Republican State Senator won, although challenged by a union supported Democrat, who at least mounted something of a campaign.

    Delaware has three counties, New Castle (the largest and most populous) to the north, Kent (which includes Dover) in the center and Suffolk to the south.

    Markell may be able to make something out of resurrecting the Valero Oil Refinery in Delaware City, which was a serious body blow here. He clearly took an activist role in it, and if it works, may pay some dividends.

    The problem with being associated with New Castle county is that its most public face to a lot of people is in its real estate permitting practices, where it is slow, unpredictable and seemingly downright capricious in decision making. So if one's qualifications for the job is the County Exec, people may not be real excited.

    Admittedly, there doesn't seem to be much of a "bench" to step up to the race, so someone like Coons could easily end up as the candidate. Whether he can win against an established statewide name is another question. As it stood, Beau Biden was going to have a tough and possibly not winnable race.

  6. Although Castle poses as a moderate, he has voted with the Republicans virtually all the way down the line in the last session, opposing the stimulus, health care reform, and student loan reforms….

    Sounds like he might be a "Scott Mike Castle Brown" Republican, which means that he might be as liberal as good ol' http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/25/lieberman-pos… Lieberman, who may recant his past and return to give the Repubs a majority in the Senate, if it's a toss-up at 50-50. That would keep Joe Biden from voting on ties. JL is a foreign policy hawk & a domestic lib, but could makr a mid-career move to fill the Repub Party Conference with another honest and [relatively] ethical member.

  7. If Castle as an old man of 72+ year old can fight for a seat, where is the fire under the belly for a young Biden? This man is a chicken. He calculates he may lose this year and he's willing for someone to sabotage his father's policies without even putting up a fight. He wants to have Castle to retire on 2014 so he can have it easy. Dream on, Mr. Chicken Shit Biden, you are good for nothing. I hope Chris Coons will run and best if he can win. This should put an end to Biden's dream of ever holding his father's seat. At least, if Coons comes close, he can mount a strong primarily challenge against the Young Biden. Oh, maybe the senior Biden will be mounting a comeback for his old seat as an ex-Vice President?

    One appreciates a fighter. Who needs a chicken that does not even fight before giving up? If you cannot fight in the name of your father for teh country, you are good for nothing, absolutely nothing!!!

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