Delaware Democrats awaiting Carney decision on run for governor

LEWES — When Democrats from across the state gather Saturday for the biennial Sussex Jamboree, candidates for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner are expected to make announcements.

But one politician who will not make any public statements is Rep. John Carney, D-Del.

Rep. Carney has been considering running for governor, but no decision has been made, according to his office.

However, some politicians and insiders are confident he will seek the position.

John C. Carney Jr.

John C. Carney Jr.

Speculation has surrounded him for a long time, with talk intensifying after declared candidate Beau Biden, the former state attorney general, died in May. Even before that, however, Rep. Carney was seen by many a natural fit for the office.

He served as lieutenant governor from 2001 to 2009 and campaigned for the top office in 2008. In an upset, then-Treasurer Jack Markell was victorious in the Democratic primary by about a 2.5 percent margin.

In 2010, Rep. Carney won his first term in Congress, taking the seat vacated by Rep. Mike Castle, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate that year. Carney has been re-elected twice.

On Monday, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said he believes Rep. Carney will campaign for governor.

“A lot of people would love to see him run,” he said.

Sen. Carper said he believes Rep. Carney is “widely admired” in Congress and did a good job as lieutenant governor.

Rep. Carney served as secretary of finance in the late 1990s when Sen. Carper was governor.

Gov. Markell said in July he hopes Rep. Carney enters into the race.

“I just believe that he would be a very effective governor,” he said. “I’ve watched him as a member of Congress and he’s been very effective there under really challenging circumstances, and I think he would take that same level of professionalism and skill from Congress to the governor’s seat.”

If Rep. Carney runs, that would leave his Congressional seat open.

Two Democrats in the General Assembly have been frequently mentioned as possible candidates: Rep. Bryon Short, D-Arden, and Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark.

Both said they have not made decisions but would consider a campaign if the seat becomes vacant.

Noting he would support his friend Rep. Carney regardless of whether he opts to seek the governorship or stays in Congress, Rep. Short said he likely will run if he has the chance.

Sen. Townsend said he is grateful for the support he has received from people who believe he would be a good fit.

“I continue to await Congressman Carney’s decision and I look forward to the campaign trail in 2016 no matter which direction it goes,” he said.

For many, the jamboree serves as a kickoff of sorts to election season. Even though the primary election is a year away, there are voters to meet, funds to raise, outreach to plan.

2016 figures to be the biggest election year in Delaware since 2008, the last time both the presidency and the governorship were open.

At this point, two Republicans are confirmed in the race for governor: Sen. Colin Bonini, who represents the Dover area, and former state police trooper Lacey Lafferty.

If Rep. Carney runs, he would be the front-runner, backed by a fundraising team developed during his first run for the office and his time in Congress.

Several Democrats are running for lieutenant governor. Levy Court Commissioner Brad Eaby and former Sussex County Register of Wills Greg Fuller officially have declared. Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Kathy McGuiness also has filed papers to run as a Democrat.

For insurance commissioner, incumbent Karen Weldin Stewart will be competing against New Castle County Sheriff Trinidad Navarro in the Democratic primary. Former Sussex County Clerk of the Peace George Parish, a Republican, also has filed.

Republican Hans Reigle, the former mayor of Wyoming, already has announced his intention to seek the seat in the U.S. House.

The jamboree, which began in the early 1970s, was moved to its current location at the main pavilion at Cape Henlopen State Park on the advice of then-U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

More than 250 people, including statewide officials and members of the General Assembly, are expected to attend, although Rep. Carney is unable to make it. The event begins at 2 p.m.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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