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Longtime Delaware Senator Tom Carper announces his retirement

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(The Center Square) — Longtime Delaware Sen. Tom Carper won’t be seeking reelection in 2024, which is expected to spark a scramble among Democrats to seek the party’s primary for the deep-blue seat.

Carper, 76, announced on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his fifth term in office in January 2025, marking the first time the solidly Democratic state will have an open Senate race since Joe Biden left for the vice presidency in 2009.

“If there’s ever an opportune time to step aside and pass the torch to the next generation, it’s coming,” Carper said at an event in Wilmington.

The Democrat has served for more than 20 years in the Senate. Before that, Carper was elected as Delaware’s treasurer, governor and served as the state’s representative in the U.S. House for five terms.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Carper praised fellow Delaware Democrat, President Joe Biden, recalling how the then-senator had encouraged him to run for higher office.

“It’s been my privilege to support Joe Biden’s reelection for the senate many times, as well as his election to the Vice Presidency and to the Presidency, and meanwhile he has encouraged me every step of the way,” Carper said.

Biden, Delaware’s longest-serving senator from 1973 to 2009, returned the compliments with a social media post praising Carper as “my friend, my trusted colleague, and my elected representative.”

“I’ve witnessed his tireless dedication to the people of Delaware – and I’ll always be grateful for his leadership in the Senate,” Biden said. “Congrats on your retirement, Senator.”

Carper is the fourth Democratic senator to announce he will not seek reelection this cycle, including seats in California and Maryland, where crowded fields of Democrats are slugging it out to replace longtime lawmakers.

His pending departure is expected to set off a scramble among what is expected to be a crowded field of contenders hoping to take over the solidly blue Senate seat.

Democrats have held Delaware’s “Class 1” Senate post since 2000, when Republican Sen. William Roth, who held the post for 30 years, lost his reelection bid.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., the state’s lone representative in Congress, is widely expected to file paperwork to run for the seat. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first Black person from Delaware to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Blunt Rochester issued a statement on Carper’s pending retirement, praising his service to the state and his accomplishments over a long career in public service.

“For all of those accomplishments, perhaps the thing that will resonate with most Delawareans were the personal moments they spent with Senator Carper,” she said. “No one put more miles in than Tom Carper. No one worked harder for Delaware than Tom Carper.”

Carper told reporters on Wednesday that he spoke to Blunt Rochester, who served as his congressional intern and urged her to run for the Senate seat.

“I said ‘You’ve been patient, waiting for me to get out of the way,'” he said. “And I’m going to get out of the way.”

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