Attorney General Denn not seeking re-election

DOVER — Attorney General Matt Denn announced Monday he will not seek a second term. The announcement marks the potential end of Mr. Denn’s political career and instantly raises questions about who will replace him in the Department of Justice after 2018.

In a post to his public Facebook page, Mr. Denn, 51, revealed the news and laid out his reasoning.

“This has been a very tough decision, but I’ve made it for a couple reasons. The first is selfish. Politics these days are grueling, with endless fundraising and traveling and constant attacks, which can be tough on a candidate but are even tougher on his family. If I ran again next year it would be my fifth statewide campaign,” he wrote in part.

“My boys, now 12, arrived five days before I was sworn in as insurance commissioner. I have been immersed in electoral politics since the day they were born. If you do the math, that means my wife soldiered through her first statewide campaign with me while she was pregnant with twins. Given the time required and the tone involved in politics these days, my boys deserve a change, my wife deserves a change and I would like a change as well.

“The second reason for my decision is that I would like to be able to spend more time on work that is going to fundamentally change the lives of kids growing up in our state. The job of attorney general is an incredibly important one that I am grateful to hold. Doing it right (which I think I’ve done) requires almost full-time attention to the hundreds of cases and complex issues that flow through the office day-to-day, leaving little time to focus on the big picture.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing in January 2019, but my hope is to be doing something in the private sector where I’ll be able to devote part of my time to ensuring that every single kid in our state has a real opportunity to fulfill his or her potential.”

Mr. Denn, a Democrat, ran for and won the post of attorney general in 2014 while serving as lieutenant governor. He had been considered a candidate to succeed term-limited Gov. Jack Markell in 2016, but after then Attorney General Beau Biden announced in April 2014 he planned to run for governor and not seek a third term heading the Department of Justice, Mr. Denn decided to campaign for the position.

After Mr. Biden passed away in May 2015, then Rep. John Carney, a fellow Democrat, entered the race. He was elected governor last year.

Mr. Denn had given no hints about his political future despite speculation he might seek to follow Gov. Carney in 2020 or 2024.

The position of attorney general is sure to draw attention from both Democrats and Republicans. Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm in a statement thanked Mr. Denn for making the decision a year before 2018’s primary election. His Republican counterpart, Michael Harrington, said in a statement the news “has created a clear opening for Republicans in the race” and noted he hopes to avoid a primary among potential GOP hopefuls.

New Castle County Chief Administrative Officer Kathy Jennings, the former state prosecutor who left the Department of Justice in December, in a statement did not address whether she may run for the attorney general’s post.

House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, was caught off guard by Mr. Denn’s announcement. Both he and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, said they did not know if Mr. Denn will run for office again, although Sen. McBride said he hopes “we haven’t seen the last of him.”

The two praised his performance in the office, with Rep. Short pointing to Mr. Denn’s focus on combating the opioid epidemic as a particular strong suit. He said the attorney general frequently communicated with him despite their political differences

“His office has always reached out to me to talk about issues, whether they were issues they thought we would support or they were issues they thought our caucus might not particularly endorse,” Rep. Short said.

Gov. Carney said in a statement Mr. Denn “has been a leader for Delaware kids with disabilities, has worked to make communities in Wilmington safer and has been a fierce advocate for Delaware consumers since his time as insurance commissioner.”

Mr. Denn was elected insurance commissioner in 2004, was elected lieutenant governor in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Prior to running for insurance commissioner, Mr. Denn was chief legal counsel for then Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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