The celebrating is over for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Following a big blow-out party at the Wilmington Riverfront with thousands of supporters cheering and honking their horns, President-elect Biden started the process of transitioning from candidate to president on Monday morning. He joined Harris at The Queen Theater in downtown Wilmington to get a briefing on COVID-19.
“We are ready to get to work, addressing the needs of the American people. Today that work begins,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, Biden announced members of the team that would advise him and lead the response to the pandemic. Biden has also launched a website outlining his plans for transitioning to the White House at buildbackbetter.com.
But rewind to that Saturday celebration one more time. While thousands of supporters pressed together outside the security perimeter to get a glimpse of Biden’s motorcade and watch his speech on large video monitors in an overflow parking lot, closer to the stage was a veritable “who’s who” of Delaware politics.
After jogging to the podium, Biden started his speech by calling out prominent elected and previous officials. “I see my buddy Tom, Senator Tom Carper, down there,” Biden said pointing to his longtime ally who has represented Delaware in the U.S. House, the governor’s office, and now the U.S. Senate. Biden also called out U.S. Sen Chris Coons, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, and even Delaware’s first female governor, Ruth Ann Minner. He got a big cheer from his hometown crowd as he thanked “the people who brought me to the dance, Delawareans.”
It’s possible that some of those in attendance Saturday night could have a better chance to serve in a presidential administration than ever before.
“I said at the outset, I wanted … this campaign to represent and look like America. We’ve done that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like and act like,” Biden said, indicating his plans for diversity.
Could those plans include Blunt Rochester? She made Delaware history in 2016, becoming the first Black member of Delaware’s Congressional Delegation. She’s also the first woman to serve in Congress from Delaware. “It is possible,” said longtime Democratic political observer Steve Tanzer. “But I can’t predict it.”
Prior to being elected to the U.S. House, Blunt Rochester was Deputy Secretary at the state Dept. of Health and Social Services from 1993 to 1998 under then-Gov. Tom Carper. She became his Secretary of Labor in 1998. “She’s terrific,” Carper said. “She’s a rising star in the Congress.”
Tanzer was a Democratic staffer in the General Assembly while Blunt Rochester worked under Carper. He said she’s well-prepared to be a part of the administration in some role. “She’d be good at it,” he said. “She was very easy to deal with and was more progressive in that role than she has been so far in D.C.”
Carper, who’s been a big advocate of the U.S. Postal Service long before this year’s upheaval at the agency under the Trump administration, didn’t directly answer when asked this weekend if he’d be interested in a role in the administration. He said selfishly he hopes neither Coons nor Blunt Rochester get called up. “Part of me would like a chance to continue to work with them as a team to serve Delaware,” he said. “Having said that, [U.S. Sen.] Chris Coons knows more about Africa than probably just about anybody in the U.S. He’s very, very knowledgeable in foreign affairs.” Carper said. He also noted Coons’ background as a chemist with a strong understanding of science. “He could serve in any number of roles in the administration.”
The question has been posed to Coons multiple times. The issue of his dedication to the Senate seat came up during his Democratic primary campaign against challenger Jess Scarane. He would not pledge to serve out his term if re-elected, which he was. Coons would only say that he would do whatever helps the state of Delaware and the Biden administration the most. “I am fairly certain that means serving in the Senate, but if the Vice President asks me to take on a very senior role, I would seriously consider it,” Coons said.
Depending on what happens with the runoff Senate races in Georgia, Coons could be more valuable to the Biden administration right where he is. “Biden probably wants someone in the Senate who can do what Coons professes to do so well, which is, reach across the aisle.”
If any of the congressional delegation or other statewide elected officials were to get called up, that could open the door for appointments or special elections to fill those spots, giving a chance for the Delaware Democrats’ deep bench of candidates to move up too.
There’s also a pool of former elected officials, perhaps most prominent among them is two-term Gov. Jack Markell who was in attendance at Saturday night’s speech. Markell has kept busy since leaving office in 2016, working on several corporate boards and even exploring a new passion as a songwriter. Markell’s first song was a response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s the same event (and President Trump’s “fine people on both sides” statement) that led Biden to finally jump in the presidential race last year. Prior to his eight years as governor, Markell was elected to three terms as Delaware state treasurer. Before that, he was on the ground floor of the wireless technology revolution as the thirteenth employee at Nextel, a name he’s credited with coining.
While it’s not clear exactly when Biden will announce more details on who exactly will be joining his team, those appointed to lead departments in the Cabinet must be approved by the Senate, a process that could be dicey depending on which party gains control of the Senate following run-off elections in Georgia.
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