Former Biden Aide Ted Kaufman to Take Incoming Vice President's Senate Seat

Ted Kaufman listens as Gov. Ruth Ann Minner names him to the Senate seat.
Ted Kaufman listens as Gov. Ruth Ann Minner names him to the Senate seat. (By Suchat Pederson -- Wilmington News Journal Via Associated Press)
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) announced yesterday that she will appoint Edward E. "Ted" Kaufman, a friend and former aide to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., to fill the Senate seat Biden will vacate until a special election can be held in two years.

Kaufman, the president of Public Strategies, a political and management consulting firm in Wilmington and a lecturer at Duke University's law school, met Biden in the early 1970s, when Biden was a long-shot Senate candidate and Kaufman was a local party operative. Sources close to Biden said Kaufman will act as a place holder until Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, returns from a National Guard tour in Iraq and can run for the remaining four years of his father's term in a 2010 special election.

"There are no illusions here," said one individual familiar with the appointment.

Joe Biden was reelected this month and intends to resign in January after he takes the Senate oath for the seventh time, Minner told reporters in Wilmington yesterday.

Kaufman, 69, is viewed as Beau Biden's political godfather and was a senior unpaid consultant to his campaign for attorney general. He ran the senator's office for 19 years, served as a top adviser during his 2008 presidential campaign and is co-chairman of his vice presidential transition team. "There is no one who knows more about how the United States Senate works and no one who is more ready to do this job for Delaware than Ted Kaufman," Biden said in a statement.

As a former staffer, Biden said, Kaufman had "done the hard day-to-day work of a Senate office -- answering constituent concerns, overseeing their casework and making sure the voters of Delaware have a strong advocate for them." Biden added: "He'll be able to hit the ground running."

Biden noted that last week his son took himself out of the running for the seat while he completes his military obligations. "It is no secret that I believe my son . . . would make a great United States senator," Biden said, but he added that if Beau Biden chooses to run, "he will have to run and win on his own."

Kaufman was a DuPont executive and local Democratic Party official in the early 1970s when Joe Biden, an ambitious local politician, decided to challenge the popular GOP incumbent, Sen. J. Caleb Boggs. Many of Kaufman's party allies were skeptical, but Kaufman liked the grass-roots style of the Biden campaign and agreed to help with get-out-the-vote efforts. But as Kaufman recalled in an interview last year, he told Biden: "Boggs is unbeatable. There's no way you can win."

It was Kaufman, along with Biden's sister, Valerie, who guided Biden back from the emotional brink after his wife, Neilia, and their daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident a few weeks after Biden's victory over Boggs in November 1972. Beau Biden and his brother, Hunter, both toddlers, were seriously injured, and Biden took the oath of office from their hospital room.

Biden resolved that the only way he could serve was if he commuted to and from Wilmington each night. He asked Kaufman to put his DuPont job on hold to help, and Kaufman took a one-year leave of absence to work for him, and they often made the commute to Washington together. Later, Kaufman helped Biden to launch his 1988 presidential run, which ended when Biden was accused of plagiarism. Eighteen months later, Kaufman stood in the hospital corridor while Biden underwent brain surgery after an aneurism that nearly killed him. Kaufman managed Biden's Senate affairs during his recovery and was part of the group that helped Biden to relaunch his political career, culminating in last year's presidential bid.

Biden acknowledged the personal dimension to Kaufman's appointment in his statement: "I care deeply about this Senate seat and I care deeply about Delaware. And I can say with absolute confidence that with Ted Kaufman in the Senate, Delaware will be in very good hands."

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