John Carney running for governor

DOVER — U.S. Rep. John Carney announced Wednesday he is running for governor, his second push for the state’s top office.

A Democrat, Rep. Carney has served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was previously lieutenant governor from 2001 to 2009.

In 2008, he narrowly lost the primary election for governor to then-state Treasurer Jack Markell, who went on to win the general election and succeed retiring Gov. Ruth Ann Minner..

Rep. John Carney Jr. announced Wednesday he will run for governor in 2016. (Submitted)

Rep. John Carney Jr. announced Wednesday he will run for governor in 2016. (Submitted)

The loss came despite then-Lt. Gov. Carney being endorsed by leaders in the Democratic party.

He then won the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House in 2010, after it was vacated by Republican Mike Castle.

Rep. Carney’s declaration immediately makes him the frontrunner in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 305,000 to 180,000.

As of June 30, he listed about $650,000 on hand in his congressional campaign committee.

Though Rep. Carney said he does not plan to start campaigning until next year so he can finish up his work in Congress, he added that his main areas of focus for governor will be education, the budget and manufacturing jobs.

He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor for months, especially after former Attorney General Beau Biden, who had previously announced his intention to run, died in May.

With his declaration, the state’s seat in the U.S. House is open, raising the possibility for a close primary between two state lawmakers.

Rep. Carney filed papers to form a campaign committee Wednesday morning and issued a press release around noon.

“I had intended to support Beau Biden as our state’s next governor and continue my work in Congress. Beau knew there are big challenges facing our state — and he would have been the man to meet them. Like so many across our state, I wish he’d had that chance,” he said in part in the statement.

“Yet, a season after Beau’s passing, we’re confronted with the fact that those same challenges Beau was ready to face still loom large along our state’s horizon. And someone has to step up to meet them.

“After many conversations with my family and the people I represent, and much reflection, I’ve decided to ask the people of Delaware to give me the chance to tackle these challenges as our state’s next governor.”

He said in an interview the thought of running for governor did not really cross his mind until mid-summer, as he had been planning to run for a fourth term and help Mr. Biden get elected.

Like many Delawareans, he said he was shocked and greatly saddened when the former attorney general died. Mr. Biden’s death, he said, created a “void” in the state’s political landscape.

About two weeks ago, Rep. Carney spoke to Beau Biden’s father, Vice President Joe Biden, who he said encouraged him to seek the office.

“That kind of lifted that burden from my shoulders,” Rep. Carney added.

He described himself as excited to serve the public “in a way that’s probably more impactful than what I’m currently doing.”

State Sen. Colin Bonini, a declared Republican candidate for govrnor who represents the Dover area, praised Rep. Carney as a friend and a talented leader. However, he noted he thinks the state needs something different from liberal Democratic policies.

The state Republican Party was far more critical.

“If you like wasteful government spending, higher taxes and Ruth Ann Minner then you’ll love John Carney,” GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland said in a statement.

Former state trooper Lacey Lafferty, a Republican running for governor, said Delaware does not need a “socialist progressive ideology” and criticized Rep. Carney’s record in Congress and as lieutenant governor.

Democratic leaders said they were pleased to hear the news, including the governor whom Rep. Carney served as deputy chief of staff and secretary of finance.

“We balanced our budgets eight years in a row, cut taxes seven of those eight years, paid down some of the state’s debt and earned a AAA credit rating for the first time in state history,” Sen. Carper said in a statement.

“We also worked together to provide the nurturing environment that created more jobs in those eight years than in any other two terms in Delaware history. Much of the progress we made was because of John’s hard work and leadership.”

He praised Rep. Carney’s integrity and “boundless energy,” while Chris Coons, also a Democrat and the state’s junior U.S. senator, said, “John is widely respected among his colleagues from both parties for his willingness to roll up his sleeves and work across the aisle to find solutions to difficult challenges, and that’s just the approach that will make him a great governor.”

After being elected statewide five times, Rep. Carney believes Delaware residents are familiar with him but plans to share more details of his “vision in the future,” once the election begins rapidly approaching.

Everything starts with a solid fiscal plan, he said. He also said another key is to improve the state’s education system.

“Our graduates of elementary and secondary education are not meeting standards they need to be competitive around the world,” he acknowleged.

As for how he’ll meld the policies of Democratic Govs. Markell and Minner with his own ideas, that is yet to be decided, although he did indicate there will be changes.

State Rep. Bryon Short, D-Arden, and Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, have indicated they would likely run for Congress if the seat was open.

Rep. Short declined to speak about his own future Wednesday, instead offering words of praise for Rep. Carney; Sen. Townsend could not be reached for comment.

Republican Hans Reigle, the former mayor of Wyoming, has already declared his intention to seek the office.

Rep. Carney shied from discussing his successor or who would serve as lieutenant governor. Five candidates, all Democrats, have already filed to run for lieutenant governor.

Levy Court Commissioner Brad Eaby, the only Kent countian among the group, said he was excited to hear of Rep. Carney’s decision.

While Republicans view him as unabashedly left-leaning, Rep. Carney insisted he has always tried to find compromise and stay near the center.

“We don’t need more people who are interested in fighting just ideological battles,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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